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Recycling rates in Norfolk flatline amid 'plastic pollution crisis'

PUBLISHED: 06:30 10 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:39 12 August 2019

Extinction Rebellion activists have been staging protests across Norfolk demanding councils declare a climate emergency. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Extinction Rebellion activists have been staging protests across Norfolk demanding councils declare a climate emergency. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

Less than half of household waste in Norfolk was recycled, according to the latest figures, with some areas falling well below the government target.

Around 46pc of household waste in Norfolk is recycled - below the government target of 50pc by 2020. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYAround 46pc of household waste in Norfolk is recycled - below the government target of 50pc by 2020. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Some 46pc of waste in Norfolk was recycled in 2017/18, according to data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Although it is slightly higher than the national average of 45pc, it falls short of the UK government target to get 50pc of waste recycled by 2020.

The figures come as councils face mounting pressure to declare a climate emergency by campaign group Extinction Rebellion (XR).

"The figures are really bad," said Andrew Boswell, of XR Norwich. "One of the issues comes with manufacturers and the lack of regulation on plastic packaging.

"You can't really blame households, it comes down to the government taking on the plastic packaging industry - we'd get rid of a huge amount of plastic."

According to the annual figures published in December 2018, recycling rates across the county have flat-lined in recent years, with figures remaining stagnant between 30-50pc since 2015.

Recycling of household waste in Costessey, Norwich. 
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Recycling of household waste in Costessey, Norwich. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Suffolk has proven to be much greener - the county recycled 54pc of household waste in 2017.

Suffolk Coastal District Council scored the highest recycling rate in the county at 59pc, whereas the green-minded people of Waveney recycled 52pc of waste.

Inland, Forest Heath District Council trailed slight behind with 47pc, but the lowest rates in the county were seen in Mid Suffolk District and Ipswich councils with 42pc.

Exitinction Rebellion (XR) activist Andrew Boswell said recycling rates in Norwich is 'appalling'. Picture : ANTONY KELLYExitinction Rebellion (XR) activist Andrew Boswell said recycling rates in Norwich is 'appalling'. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Great Yarmouth council is the worst performing council in Norfolk for recycling with a rate of 32pc and is ranked 302 out of a total of 353 district councils in England.

But this is a far cry from where the council stood four years ago, when the recycling rate was 26pc in 2013/14.

Yarmouth councillor Penny Carpenter pinned the blame on low kerbside collection of garden waste, as it was introduced in the area later than others.

She said the dry recycling rate is 23pc - in line with other areas of Norfolk.

The second worst performer is Norwich City Council with 38pc of waste being recycled, ranking at 246th in England.

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Mr Boswell said: "The figure is appalling in the face of a plastic pollution crisis."

But councillor Kevin Maguire, cabinet member for waste strategy, said the city had the most comprehensive recycling services in the county, which includes food, textiles and electrical collections alongside mixed recycling.

The Norwich Green Party has also launched a campaign for plastic-free July to commence next year. It is part of a global initiative which encourages people not to buy single-use plastics such as fruit and vegetable wrappings, bottles and straws.

School children promote recycling. Picture: Nick ButcherSchool children promote recycling. Picture: Nick Butcher

Green councillor for Mancroft ward Jamie Osborn, who is also a member of XR, said he was concerned recycling rates have not improved, but added: "We have to be focusing on producing less waste in the first place.

"There are steps individuals can take like recycling more and cutting down on plastic, but the buck stops with manufacturers who are producing plastic. 
"They should be the ones to pay for recycling and waste - they are producing it."

He said the government should be doing more to make the 50pc target a realistic possibility, adding: "Councils need the power and money from central government to be able to make a bigger difference."

In contrast, Broadland has the highest recycling rate in Norfolk at 50pc and ranks 84th in England, followed by West Norfolk council at 46pc.

Broadland councillor Judy Leggett, portfolio holder for environmental excellence, said: "I am delighted to see that Broadland residents are equally enthusiastic about recycling as shown by these figures, and we aim to keep improving our recycling rate in the years to come."

West Norfolk councillor Ian Devereux, cabinet portfolio holder for environment, said the council is set to open a pop-up clothes recycling shop during national recycling week in September and will also sign the Courtauld Commitment agreement, which aims to reduce food waste.

Norwich councillor Kevin Maguire with youngsters from Catton Grove primary school at the Launch of the 'Recycling Stars' project. Picture: Nick ButcherNorwich councillor Kevin Maguire with youngsters from Catton Grove primary school at the Launch of the 'Recycling Stars' project. Picture: Nick Butcher

Elsewhere, recycling rates in North Norfolk and Breckland have remained unchanged in 2016 and 2017 at 42pc and 40pc respectively.

In South Norfolk, the number of waste of being recycled has gone down in that time, from 45pc to 43pc.

Nationally, the amount of rubbish being sent to landfill is reducing - around 12.5pc of waste in England was sent to landfill in 2017 compared to 15.7 the year before and 20pc in 2015.

Broadland councillor Judy Leggett. Picture: Broadland District CouncilBroadland councillor Judy Leggett. Picture: Broadland District Council

The vast majority of waste (42pc) was incinerated, with landfill tax being the main driver for diverting waste away from landfill.

A spokesman for the Norfolk Waste Partnership said: "The Norfolk Waste Partnership sees the seven district councils and county council working together to reduce contamination and increase recycling.

"The Partnership runs a number of projects and targeted campaigns to help people recycle. These include working with schools and community groups, advertising campaigns, social media, and outdoor events.

News recycle centre at Costessey,Norwich. 
Picture: Jerry DawsNews recycle centre at Costessey,Norwich. Picture: Jerry Daws

"It also has its own website www.norfolkrecycles.com where people can find out what can and cannot go in their recycling bin, take a 360 degree tour of the recycling facility at Costessey and get tips on reducing single use plastic."

More details and advice on recycling can be found at www. www.norfolkrecycles.com

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