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Should UK adopt European initiatives for 2020 EU recycling target

Sarah Mann
Mar 04, 2014

The UK is required to meet an EU recycling target of 50% by the year 2020, which means 50% of household waste needs to be recycled, prepared for reuse or composted. But as UK recycling levels plateau, is this target achievable?

Between 2012 and 2013, England’s recycling rate increased by just 0.2%, to 43.2%; if this rate continues, the 2020 target will not be met. Both Wales and Northern Ireland also reported a rise in recycling and composting, but by a greater amount when compared to England, reaching 57% in Wales and 45.1% in Northern Ireland (Q2 2013).

Austria is setting the standard and achieving a 63% recycling rate, while Germany (62%) and Belgium (58%) are following close behind. Austria has looked to reduce the amount of waste being sent for residual waste treatment including: a tax on incineration, a landfill ban for organic waste and mandatory separate collection of non-packaging waste and bio-waste fractions. Belgium has similar initiatives and includes fines for householders who don’t adhere to waste segregation rules, thus encouraging participation. In addition to this, one report stated that Belgium has "...obligatory source separated waste collections in both urban and rural settlements, subsidies for reuse centres, pay-as-you-throw schemes, incineration taxes and quotas on waste production per inhabitant."

Should we (the public) in the UK face stricter policies and more countrywide initiatives to help move waste up the waste hierarchy? Or are our current recycling campaigns, waste prevention initiatives and move toward a circular economy going to facilitate an increase in recycling?

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