Influencing factors on local authority recycling rates identified

22nd July 2015

Resource efficiency experts WRAP today published a new report which has identified key factors that influence local authority recycling performance rates, and which quantifies the degree to which these impact on those rates.

The research, “Analysis of recycling performance and waste arisings in the UK 2012/13”, has been produced to give local authorities and waste management companies information on what elements impact on recycling performances in the UK, to help plan effective recycling schemes.

Linda Crichton, Head of Resource Management at WRAP, explains: “Recycling rates vary throughout the UK just as they do in other countries, and the reasons for this are complex. They can be within the control of an authority or contextual factors, such as demographics, that are beyond the authority’s control. Being able to quantify the degree to which each impact on recycling is hugely important for an authority, and this report will help make that possible.”

WRAP has analysed data for 239 authorities, covering three authority groups; waste collection authorities (WCA) in England, unitary authorities in England and unitary authorities (UA) in the UK. The analysis included local authorities that provide the same collection service for paper, card, cans, glass and plastic bottles to 80% or more of their households. In total, 60% of all England and UK authorities with responsibility for collection services were included in the study.

The research showed that factors within the control of the authorities account for the largest proportion of variation in recycling rates across the three datasets, these ranged from 39% to 65% difference. They include factors such as:

  • Whether a local authority has a food waste collection or not - those collecting food waste generally have higher recycling rates than those with no food waste collections. 
  • Effective weekly residual containment capacity* available for waste was found to be significant in all datasets. More capacity is associated with lower recycling rates.

The study also found that across all three authority groups there is very little difference in recycling rates whatever the dry recycling schemes in operation, whether co-mingled, two-stream or multi-stream.

Contextual factors were found to have a less influence on recycling performance, affecting the range of performance rates by between 16% and 29%, but are still important influences on recycling rates.

Notes to the editor

  • “Analysis of recycling performance and waste arisings in the UK 2012/13” is free to download from the WRAP website
  • WRAP has a suite of good practice information available for local authorities including the local authority waste and recycling information portal. The portal contains another recently added new resource in the Kerbside Recycling: Indicative Cost and Performance Tool
  • The new report is an extension and update on early WRAP work published in 2010. Then WRAP analysed 2008/09 household dry kerbside recycling performance data from WasteDataFlow and produced an analysis of kerbside dry recycling performance in the UK. 
  • *The containment volume available to a household for residual waste depends upon the size of the container provided, and the collection frequency (usually weekly or fortnightly, but with some authorities collecting more than once a week). Combining frequency and container size into a single measure of effective weekly residual containment capacity helps to understand the volume available. It does not simply refer to whether a council operates a weekly or alternate weekly residual waste collection service. 

1. WRAP’s vision is a world where resources are used sustainably. It works in partnership with governments, businesses, trade bodies, local authorities, communities and individuals looking for practical advice to improve resource efficiency that delivers both economic and environmental benefits. 

2. Our mission is to accelerate the move to a sustainable resource-efficient economy through: 

a. re-inventing how we design, produce and sell products,

b. re-thinking how we use and consume products, and

c. re-defining what is possible through re-use and recycling.

3. First established in 2000, WRAP is a registered charity.  WRAP works with UK governments and other funders to help deliver their policies on waste prevention and resource efficiency.  WRAP is a registered Charity No 1159512 and registered as a Company limited by guarantee in England & Wales No 4125764. Registered office at Second Floor, Blenheim Court, 19 George Street, Banbury, Oxon, OX16 5BH.