Councils 'closing in on 50% waste recycling target'

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).

Of the five councils with the lowest rates, three were in London - Lewisham (17.1 per cent), Newham (17.2 per cent) and Westminster (19.1 per cent). They were joined by Bassetlaw DC (19.2) and the Isles of Scilly, which had the worst overall recycling rate at 14.1 per cent.

Justin Bowden said the research, which is based on official data from Defra, highlights the great strides made in waste collection over the last decade - but that increased recycling "has come at a cost".

"The waste sector is the most dangerous in the country to work in," he added.

"GMB's research tells us two things. First, we need a sharing of expertise and knowledge which is vital to bring the recycling underachievers up to the levels of their peers.

"Second, to raise recycling levels even further, and make this sector safer, requires more staff to be employed, more investment in vehicles and equipment and safer methods of working to keep those providing these vital service safe."

Dan Shears, GMB national officer for health and safety, said: "There is no reason why this sector should be more dangerous than any other. The hazards are well known. This is simply about ensuring that councils and contractors give the time and the resources to follow the good practice that is already the case on many contracts.

GMB is doing all it can to help to reduce the level of accidents in the sector. This is why we have organised a conference for GMB workplace and health and safety representatives from the sector at our national office in February."