Recycling statistics | Data reveals the best – and worst – counties at recycling

20 May 2021
At Access Self Storage, we submitted Freedom of Information requests to all 25 County Councils in England to determine how the lockdown had affected recycling habits. We were expecting a slight increase, if anything (we’ve all had plenty of time at home to sort our recyclables) but we were astonished to see that the majority of counties were recycling less in 2020 than the year before.

We asked for recycling data from Local Household Waste Recycling Centres – tips, to you and me – for county councils. We gathered this data on two six-month periods a year apart, July 1st 2019 to January 31st 2020 and July 1st 2020 and January 31st 2021. Shockingly, we found that 19 of the 23 councils that responded recycled less during lockdown than before, and only two recycled more. Devon and Lincolnshire councils did not supply data.

You can view this data in the table at the bottom of the blog post.

Recycling statistics England

Recycling during lockdown

According to these recycling statistics, households have, by and large, become worse at recycling during the pandemic. The most significant year-over-year drops were seen in Leicestershire, which went from recycling 62 percent to 53 percent, and Surrey, from 58 percent to 47 percent.

Oxfordshire residents deserve credit for a significant increase in their recycling rate, from 61 percent to 67 percent. The only other area to improve its recycling rate was rather more modest: Gloucestershire improved from 26.51 percent to 26.99 percent.

We can’t say definitively, as not all councils provided us with the data, but the figures also suggest that less waste was tipped overall in the second half of 2020 than the corresponding time period in 2019. For instance, Norfolk reported an admirable 1,220 tonne decrease in tipped waste, while Surrey reported a similar 745 tonne drop.

Recycling champions and losers

Residents of Nottinghamshire recycle the largest proportion of their household waste at an average of 78 percent. They narrowly beat out Cambridgeshire, at 76, and Suffolk at 74 percent. West Sussex and Worcestershire are fourth and fifth best, recycling 73 and 70 percent of their waste respectively.

The worst county councils for recycling were Gloucestershire, which recycles just 27 percent of household waste, followed by Northamptonshire at 38 percent and East Sussex at 43 percent. 

Recycling UK facts

Nationwide, according to the latest data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2018, just 45 percent of all household waste is recycled – so there’s plenty of room for improvement. According to Lovemoney data, Wales has one of the best household recycling rates in Europe at 63.8 percent, putting England and Scotland to shame, with 44.2 percent and 42.8 percent respectively.

Recycle-More notes that packaging makes up around 5.9 million tonnes of the total 30 million tonnes of waste that the UK produces each year – but much of it is going to waste. For instance, we throw away 13 billion steel cans every year even though they are commonly recycled.

However, there is cause for optimism, as more people are recycling than ever. Data from WRAP shows that 89 percent of people say that they regularly recycle. The amount of recyclable packaging is also increasing, and people are eager to adopt greener alternatives. Some 65 percent of people are more likely to purchase a product if its packaging is recyclable according to research by Viridor.

Recycling statistics England

Recycling tips

If the data tells us anything, it’s that we can all do better at recycling. Here are a few recycling tips from us here at Access:

Get in touch with us if you’d like access to individual responses and month-specific data for any of the respondents. You might also be interested in data we collected on the most expensive parking fines in the UK, or you might like some recycling tips for your home.

 

Council July August September October November December January Average
Cambridgeshire County Council 2019 80.70% 79.30% 79.30% 75.70% 73.60% 67.60% n/a 76.03%
Cambridgeshire County Council 2020 77.90% 76.60% 78.30% 76.40% 74.60% 66.50% n/a 75.05%
Cumbria County Council 2019 74.10% 72.80% 72.70% 70.80% 68.40% 62.40% 65.40% 69.51%
Cumbria County Council 2020 70.00% 69.70% 71.40% 68.30% 65.90% 62.00% 62.70% 67.14%
Derbyshire County Council 2019 62.00% 63.00% 63.00% 61.00% 58.00% 59.00% 56.00% 60.29%
Derbyshire County Council 2020 55.00% 54.00% 59.00% 52.00% 51.00% 46.00% 45.00% 51.71%
East Sussex County Council 2019 48.82% 49.09% 47.94% 44.35% 41.71% 38.39% 38.22% 44.07%
East Sussex County Council 2020 44.63% 42.23% 46.80% 42.10% 41.96% 36.78% n/a 42.42%
Essex County Council 2019 Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied 60.74%
Essex County Council 2020 Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied 60.64%
Gloucestershire County Council 2019 Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied 26.51%
Gloucestershire County Council 2020 Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied 26.99%
Hampshire County Council 2019 Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied 61.83%
Hampshire County Council 2020 Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied TBC
Hertfordshire County Council 2019 60.40% 58.90% 60.30% 58.20% 60.40% 57.20% 56.50% 58.84%
Hertfordshire County Council 2020 TBC TBC TBC TBC TBC TBC TBC TBC
Kent County Council 2019 66.00% 63.00% 65.00% 62.00% 58.00% 55.00% 54.00% 60.43%
Kent County Council 2020 63.00% 58.00% 70.00% 64.00% 56.00% 59.00% 51.00% 60.14%
Lancashire County Council 2019 64.50% 63.00% 63.10% 61.50% 57.60% 53.60% 54.90% 59.74%
Lancashire County Council 2020 57.20% 57.00% 57.50% 52.00% 51.20% 46.80% 42.50% 52.03%
Leicestershire County Council 2019 66.00% 70.00% 68.00% 61.00% 62.00% 53.00% 54.00% 62.00%
Leicestershire County Council 2020 53.00% 51.00% 56.00% 54.00% 54.00% 48.00% TBC 52.67%
Norfolk County Council 2019 68.62% 68.02% 65.60% 64.34% 63.01% 58.46% 58.32% 63.77%
Norfolk County Council 2020 61.27% 60.67% 63.69% 60.17% 60.40% 54.31% TBC 60.09%
North Yorkshire County Council 2019 73.00% 73.00% 72.00% 69.00% 67.00% 62.00% 65.00% 68.71%
North Yorkshire County Council 2020 71.00% 68.00% 70.00% 67.00% 65.00% 61.00% 58.00% 65.71%
Northamptonshire County Council 2019 38.83% 37.09% 39.52% 37.97% 38.06% 37.68% 38.32% 38.21%
Northamptonshire County Council 2020 39.46% 38.66% 38.60% 36.25% 35.71% 38.68% 33.51% 37.27%
Nottinghamshire County Council 2019 83.00% 82.10% 81.40% 78.80% 75.50% 72.40% TBC 78.87%
Nottinghamshire County Council 2020 79.20% 78.30% 79.70% 77.80% 75.00% 71.30% TBC 76.88%
Oxfordshire County Council 2019 60.88% 61.09% 61.03% 61.09% 60.97% 60.39% 60.08% 60.79%
Oxfordshire County Council 2020 68.49% 67.65% 67.93% 67.50% 67.52% 66.78% 66.42% 67.47%
Somerset County Council 2019 74.16% 72.21% 72.82% 70.55% 67.88% 64.56% 63.42% 69.37%
Somerset County Council 2020 68.44% 67.25% 70.88% 66.02% 64.18% 59.65% 58.91% 65.05%
Staffordshire County Council 2019 77.28% 75.68% 75.92% 73.62% 70.51% 62.58% 69.39% 72.14%
Staffordshire County Council 2020 74.36% 71.33% 72.92% 69.96% 67.93% 60.34% 56.60% 67.63%
Suffolk County Council 2019 Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied 74.30%
Suffolk County Council 2020 Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied Not supplied 74.10%
Surrey County Council 2019 62.14% 60.02% 60.23% 57.52% 58.78% 55.64% 53.20% 58.22%
Surrey County Council 2020 48.83% 41.39% 52.84% 47.99% 52.03% 46.62% 42.23% 47.42%
Warwickshire County Council 2019 59.90% 64.30% 62.50% 63.00% 56.40% 53.40% 54.90% 59.20%
Warwickshire County Council 2020 58.30% 56.60% 55.70% 58.40% 56.90% 51.00% 51.40% 55.47%
West Sussex County Council 2019 77.95% 77.06% 77.67% 74.57% 74.60% 69.83% 70.34% 74.57%
West Sussex County Council 2020 72.83% 73.59% 75.39% 72.97% 72.29% 68.85% 69.14% 72.15%
Worcestershire County Council 2019 76.99% 75.30% 75.52% 73.30% 69.71% 63.17% 65.17% 71.31%
Worcestershire County Council 2020 74.83% 72.06% 75.33% 70.54% 70.03% 62.86% 60.73% 69.48%