Recycling in Cambridge

The Lib-Dem-controlled Cambridge City Council is very keen on recycling, and has made a considerable investment over the last decade to increase the amount of household waste being recycled. How are they doing compared to other local authorities?

Some figures published in the Guardian datablog today give the picture. Cambridge currently recycles 44% of its household waste, slightly ahead of the UK average of 41.2%. However, you could argue that the important thing is not the percentage of waste recycled, but rather the total amount of waste that isn’t recycled. On the whole, reducing the amount of waste produced is better than producing lots of waste and recycling some of it. Fortunately, the figures cover this too, so we can see how the two numbers relate. Here’s the data for each local authority in England:

In the top left corner we have Surrey Heath, recycling 65% of their waste, with just 281 kg/household not recycled each year. In the bottom right corner, in fact some way off the edge of the chart, are the Isles of Scilly, recycling just 19% of their waste, with a massive 1,425 kg/household not recycled. Cambridge is slightly better than middling.

As well as benefitting the environment, councils have a strong financial incentive to increase recycling, in the form of landfill tax. This currently costs them £48 per tonne sent to landfill, and it is set to increase by £8 per tonne each year for at least the next several years. Cambridge City Council is currently running a consultation about its bin collection service, which closes on Monday, with a view to increasing the efficiency of the service. Among other things this consultation is asking  whether people are prepared to accept microchips in their bins to monitor the amount of waste. It’ll be interesting to see what responses the consultation gets.

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