Scottish household waste recycling rates worst in UK

Just over 40 per cent of all household waste in Scotland was recycled last year – less than in any other UK nation - new figures have revealed.

Only 42 per cent of household waste was recycled in 2020 - 1,020,728 tonnes of household waste recycled out of 2,429,057 tonnes of rubbish produced - a drop of 2.9 per cent compared to 2019.

The statistics also show that recycling rates have dropped in 26 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities – with some council areas recycling less than 20 per cent of their household waste – while Scotland’s recycling rate is trailing behind the other home nations.

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In a stark comparison to Scotland, in Wales, 64.3 per cent of waste is recycled, in Northern Ireland, 50.9 per cent and in England 42 per cent. Scotland has a national target to achieve a recycling rate of 70 per cent by 2025.

A 'Don't Recycle' label on plastic packaging.A 'Don't Recycle' label on plastic packaging.
A 'Don't Recycle' label on plastic packaging.

Scottish Labour, which obtained the figures from environment agency Sepa, warned that the statistics show that the SNP-Green government is failing to take recycling seriously.

Scottish Labour environment spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “The SNP-Green government talk a good game on the environment, but the statistics tell a very different story.

“The climate crisis is happening right now but this government is failing to support the people of Scotland in their efforts. It’s all too clear that the environmental promises of the SNP-Green government are not worth the paper that they are written on.

He added: “In place of SNP-Green neglect, failure and spin, Scottish Labour will continue to fight for a greener future for Scotland.”

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The figures showed that Orkney and Shetland are the worst local authorities in Scotland in terms of recycling – with just 18.8 per cent and 17.1 per cent of household waste recycled respectively. East Renfrewshire recycles the most at 67.8 per cent, followed by Moray and Angus, both which recycle 59 per cent.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government announced that nine more local authorities will get support from the Recycling Improvement Fund for innovations designed to improve waste collection and disposal, bringing the total investment to date to £20 million.

Ministers say the fund, which will total £70 million over the next five years, will deliver a step change in Scotland’s recycling performance and help local authorities get ready for future developments – including Scotland’s overdue deposit return scheme (DRS).

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Scottish Government circular economy minister, Lorna Slater, said: “We have recently provided £20 million of support for local authorities to help them increase recycling and cut emissions. This is the beginning of one of the biggest investments in recycling in Scotland in a generation.

“We also want to see materials remain in use for as long as possible before they are recycled and will be introducing an ambitious Circular Economy Bill to help make that happen.

“As well as reducing and recycling, we must deal with waste effectively. That’s why we have initiated an independent review of the role of incineration, which will make sure it aligns with our emissions reduction targets.”

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