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Recycling league table

London’s Newham is ‘worst area for recycling in UK’ – but Yorkshire’s East Riding comes out on top
UK’s recycling league table

Despite increased focus on recycling in the media and a push from many local authorities to reduce waste going to landfill, London borough Newham has earned the dubious accolade of the worst area for recycling in the UK – with a rate of just 14%. Residents of the East Riding of Yorkshire, however, came out on top – with 64% of their household waste being recycled.

A positive trend for recycling

Analysis from Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) shows a dramatic difference in recycling rates across local authorities – with the East Riding of Yorkshire, South Oxfordshire and Rochford consistently achieving the top three spots in the previous three years.

While the disparity between the highest and lowest percentage rates of recycling is a staggering 50% nationwide, there remains a huge gap in regions too (see below).

For example, while London is home to the lowest rate of recycling at 14% in Newham, the nearby borough of Bexley has achieved a 52% rate.

Despite these differences, the overall average recycling rate in England is 45.2% – showing a positive trend towards the EU’s 50% target for 2020.

Recycling rates by region

Highest: Bexley LB (52%)
Lowest: Newham LB (14%)

Highest: Darlington Borough Council (41%)
Lowest: Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (25%)

Highest: Stratford-on-Avon District Council (60%)
Lowest: Birmingham City Council (21%)

Highest: Stroud District Council (61%)
Lowest: Council of the Isles of Scilly (21%)


Highest: East Riding of Yorkshire Council (64%)
Lowest: Kirklees MBC (27%)

Highest: South Northamptonshire Distrct Council (60%)
Lowest: Bassetlaw District Council (25%)

Highest: Trafford MBC (59%)
Lowest: Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council (20%)

Highest: South Oxfordshire Distrct Council (63%)
Lowest: Gosport Borough Council (23%)

Highest: Rochford District Council (63%)
Lowest: Tendring District Council (27%)

Overall recycling rates

Interestingly, the breakdown of the recycling statistics showed that the types of waste being recycled stayed relatively static over the years covered (2013 to 2017). Dry recycling, which includes what most households would consider typical recycling, such as glass, plastic, paper and card, remained at 26% of total household waste apart from in 2016, where it increased slightly to 27%.

In terms of tonnage, this type of recycling was lower in 2017 – with 5.9 million tonnes recycled, down 2.1% from the previous year – but despite this fall, it is still an encouraging 4% higher than 5 years ago.

Plastics, too, have seen an increase – with the proportion of plastics being recycled up 1.1% in 2017, suggesting that uptake of plastic recycling amongst the general public has increased.

The report notes that the figures themselves do not necessarily show the full picture. Areas with higher proportions of residents living in flats may find it difficult to store recycling or have no garden space with which to create organic waste – which would have a significant effect on the recycling rate for those authorities.

‘A great divide’

Mark Hall, communications director of, said the report reveals ‘a great divide between areas where recycling levels are high, and those which fall short of the mark’. While some of this can be attributed to the types of housing common in those areas, he adds, recycling schemes and how they are marketed by the local authority also have an impact on the mindset of local residents.

‘We would love to see all local authorities reporting the kind of recycling rates seen in the leading areas – and many of them are a long way off. Concerted efforts by the local authorities to raise awareness are important, as well as ensuring that there is the capacity to deal with recycled materials. The provisions made for recycling varies from one local authority to the next – for example, Leeds City Council lacks the funds to provide for kerbside glass recycling, which could be off-putting for busy residents who would need to schedule a trip to the local recycling bank, as well as store glass waste in the meantime.”

‘This is an increasingly important issue which local authorities – and the government – cannot afford to kick down the road. Ensuring a consistent level of funding and provision for recycling across the country will enable households to make recycling second nature more easily – and allow for nationwide campaigns to improve uptake. With one year until we reach 2020, which is when the EU would like the UK to have reached the 50% target for household recycling nationwide, we have a lot of work to do.’

Communications director at

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