"The government is clearly not doing enough to tackle the UK's waste crisis and seems set to miss its target of recycling a quarter of household waste by 2005. Increasing amounts of waste are being generated, and far too little is recycled," said Clare Wilton, waste campaigner for UK pressure group Friends of the Earth.
The government's Waste Strategy 2000 for England and Wales set a target to recycle or compost at least 25 per cent of household waste by 2005. Despite the two per cent increase in domestic recycling, England still languishes near the foot of the European recycling league. Austria recycles around two thirds of its waste (64 per cent), Belgium recycles over half (52 per cent). Food and drink packaging makes up the bulk of household waste, and the UK does not have an enviable recycling record. Friends of the Earth points out that the UK is the third worst recycler of drinks cans in Europe - according to the Association of European steel packaging producers (APEAL), just 42 per cent of steel packaging was recycled in 2002, well below the Europe average of 60 per cent. Belgium (93 per cent), Germany (79 per cent), and the Netherlands (78 per cent) topped the table.
DEFRA published its provisional estimates from the Department's latest Municipal Waste Management Survey for the financial year 2002/3. These show that municipal waste has risen 1.8 per cent over the previous year to 29.3 million tones, and that the amount of waste landfilled has fallen slightly.
The most recycled material was compostable waste (32 per cent), followed by paper (30 per cent) and glass (13 per cent).
"An effective plan to dramatically reduce the amount of waste we produce is desperately needed," said Wilton. "Ministers must also do more to ensure that local authorities speed up the introduction of comprehensive doorstep recycling collections for every household.
"We cannot continue to lay waste to the environment by throwing valuable resources into landfill sites, or burning them in incinerators." This sentiment was echoed recently by minister for the environment, heritage and local government Martin Cullen, who launched a report titled Waste Management: Taking Stock and Moving Forward, earlier this month. "Managing waste costs money, burying waste costs more," he said. "Nobody favours waste, but waste is a reality. Those advocating a zero waste policy have zero credibility."