Councils in England are closing in on a target of recycling 50 per cent of household waste by 2020, with 73 already meeting or exceeding that threshold, according to new research.

The GMB union said of the 23.1m tones of household waste generated across England's 320 councils, 10.1m was sent for recycling, composting or reuse in 2014-15, a rate of 43.7 per cent.

South Oxfordshire District had the highest recycling rate at 67.3 per cent, followed by the Vale of White Horse DC (65.6 per cent), Rochford DC (65.2 per cent) and Surrey Heath BC (63.3 per cent).

Eighteen councils have secured almost in Government grants to retrofit buses with green technology capable of cutting harmful emissions by up to 90 per cent.

More than £6.8m from the Clean Bus Technology Fund will be used to upgrade 439 buses operating in pollution hotpots.

To secure funding, local authorities had to show evidence that retrofit technology would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by at least 50 per cent. Councils will also have to monitor the schemes and provide evidence of their effectiveness.

London Councils, the mayor of London and Transport for London have submitted a joint bid for £20m in funding from the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV).

The bid argues that a lack of electric charging points across the city as one of the main barriers to the ownership of ultra-low emissions vehicles (ULEVs) and it outlines measures to tackle this, including installing more charging points in residential areas, in car club bays and for commercial vehicles.

It aims to support the growth of ULEVs in car clubs so they account for 50 per cent of fleets by 2025.

England's largest local authority is set to scrap its own version of the Green Deal, saying the Government has left it with an "impossible job" after it pulled the plug on funding for the national scheme.

A report set to go before cabinet on 22 September argues that the failure of the Green Deal means the council and its partner Carillion Energy Services (CES) now have no chance of hitting targets set for the Birmingham Energy Savers project.

New eco-homes have been built for Ealing Council using timber-frame structural insulated panel (SIP) construction to deliver high green standards and fast delivery.

The three properties, one detached and two semi-detached homes, have been built on brownfield land at Wincanton Road in the Northholt area in a £700,000 scheme funded by the council with support from the Greater London Authority.

Food waste collections are one of the biggest factors affecting local authority recycling rates, according to a new study.

Analysis by sustainability charity Wrap of 239 authorities, around 60 per cent of all authorities in the UK with responsibility for collections services, found that recycling rates were generally higher in areas where food waste collections were offered.

A charter to encourage councils to offer more consistent household recycling schemes is to be developed in Scotland.

The charter is a key recommendation of the Zero Waste Taskforce, a joint initiative between the Scottish Government and Cosla, the body that represents Scotland's councils.

It will set out a series of principles for the design, operation and communication of recycling services and policies on issues such as contamination.  

Solar power is set to play a direct role in recycling in Southwark thanks to one of the largest solar panel installations in London on its Integrated Waste Management Facility.

Some 2,500 panels are being installed on the roof of the facility, enough to cover the equivalent of four football pitches. They will generate 674MWh of energy a year, enough to power 220 homes and will save the same amount of carbon as would be achieved if the council took its entire waste collection fleet off the road for six months.

Swindon Borough Council has been praised for becoming the first UK authority to adopt planning orders designed to encourage more low carbon energy generation in a move that could eventually see all of the town's housing powered by clean energy.

Local Development Orders are part of the borough's strategy to meet a national target of having 15 per cent of all energy requirements coming from renewable sources by 2020.

Cuts to council communications budgets are putting recycling rates at risk by reducing local authorities' ability to engage with residents and create a better understanding of the cost of waste, according to one expert.

Lee Marshall of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Group (LARAC) issued the warning after a survey of council waste officers across 183 authorities by the Chartered Institute of Waste Management found that almost half have seen their communications budget cut, making it the biggest area of non-staff expenditure to be reduced. 

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