The UK May Be 'On The Verge' Of Burning More Waste Than We Recycle, Green Party Warns

Sara Spary

Even if you take time to make sure you sort your household rubbish for recycling, it might end up being burned rather than recycled, a new report by the Green Party claims.

It adds that the UK is “on the verge” of burning more waste than it recycles.

Three English regions - London, the West Midlands and the North East, already burn more waste than is recycled, according to a report by the political party, which warns that if current trends continue more rubbish in the UK will be burnt by local councils than recycled within a year.

In the last few years recycling rates in England have “almost flat-lined” at just over 11m tonnes, while incineration has grown from 5.5m tonnes in 2012/13 to over 10m in 2016/17, the report claims.

“There is every chance that some of the plastics, cardboard and paper that people took care to separate for recycling, will end up being burnt alongside everything that was thrown in the waste bin,“Jenny Jones, the Green Party peer, said.

She says that burning waste, which is sometimes used to fuel energy, is bad for the environment because toxins are released and it discourages councils from sorting items for recycling. 

China, which for decades has been the world’s largest waste importer, banned plastics, paper and textiles at the start of this year, which will also have a knock on effect, according to the report.

“There is a logic to generating energy from the waste that we cannot recycle, or reuse, but it is meant to be the last resort option,” Jones added.

“What we have created instead is a market driven system of incinerators which constantly need to be fed. Many councils have signed up to long term contracts with incinerators and my research shows that these authorities have some of the worst recycling rates in the country.”