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UK Waste and Recycling Legislation and Strategy

Local councils are obliged by law to provide a domestic refuse collection service to all households within their constituency. 

It is the responsibility of each individual council to provide recycling services, rather than relying on prescriptive instruction from County Councils or Central Government.

While there are general statutory recycling targets for local councils, there are no material specific targets. Local council targets are currently weight-based, with many councils tending to favour the heavier items for their collection schemes. However, RECOUP's research shows that the addition of plastic to collection programmes has a distinct beneficial impact on the overall yield of all materials.

Individual Nation Waste Strategies

Interpretation of the Directives has been handed down to the devolved Governments, with the result that waste policy has a different approach and is being developed at different paces in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with each setting its own waste strategy and subsequent targets.

The Waste Directive is implemented in England and Wales through the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011. Scotland and Northern Ireland have a separate approach. Scotland’s is through Zero Waste Scotland, which was launched in 2010, and in Northern Ireland it’s Towards Resource Management, the Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy 2006-2010, which has just been under consultation. Wales also has their Towards ZeroWaste strategy and English their Government Review of Waste Policy 2011. This presents a complex structure across the UK. An overview of the recycling targets are shown below:

Comparison of Recycling Targets for UK Nations

England

Wales Scotland Northern Ireland
Government Review of
Waste Policy in
England 2011
Towards Zero Waste Zero Waste Scotland Towards Resource
Efficiency (under
consultation)
- Currently as per Waste
Framework Directive
requirements
- No new recycling targets
Recycling, preparation for
reuse or composting of
Local Authority collected
municipal waste:
- 52% by 2012-13
(achieved)
- 58% by 2015/16
- 64% by 2019/20
- 70% by 2024/25
- 90% recycling/resuse of
C&D wastes by 2025
Recycling, preparation for
reuse or composting of
Local Authority collected
household waste:
- 50% by 2013
- 60% by 2020
- 70% by 2025
- Currently as per Waste
Framework Directive
requirements
- Proposed Local Authority
collected municipal waste
target of 60% by 2020
- Seems likely that it will
follow the Welsh model
with staggered targets and
penalties for failure to
achieve targets

 

England

Although the Waste Framework Directive is implemented in England through the Waste Regulations 2011, currently England’s waste strategy is actually based around the Government Review of Waste Policy in England 2011.

Wales

Waste strategy and subsequent targets in Wales. Toward Zero Waste is Wales’ overarching, long-term plan for resource efficiency and sustainable waste management.

Scotland

Waste strategy and subsequent targets in Scotland. Scotland has an overarching, long-term plan for resource efficiency and sustainable waste management, Zero Waste Scotland.

Northern Ireland

Waste strategy and subsequent targets in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland’s most recent waste strategy was found in Towards Resource Management – The Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy 2006-2020.

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