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District councils top recycling league table

The success of district councils in recycling waste and reducing the overall amount of waste has been confirmed by new Government figures.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs data for 2021-22 published on Friday shows the top five recycling councils in the country are all district councils.

Three Rivers District Council in Hertfordshire is the highest recycler, with 63.5% of its household waste sent for recycling, reuse or composting.

The top three councils for having the lowest amount of residual waste – i.e. waste which is not recycled, reused or composted – per household are all district councils. The council with the lowest amount is East Devon District Council.

The data has emerged at a time of growing concern among district councils about the potential impact of anticipated Government waste reforms. Defra had been expected today to also publish its long-awaited response to a 2021 consultation on waste consistency, although the announcement was subsequently cancelled.

The consultation response had been expected to set out the extent to which all councils will be required to alter their services to meet the new guidance, including the timetable for separate food waste collections and clarity on garden waste and the frequency of waste collections.

However, DCN councils fear that such rules could pay no heed to local factors. For instance, in rural areas they could potentially result in councils having to dramatically increase the size of their vehicle fleet – at significant expense to the taxpayer – with lorries travelling long distances to collect relatively small amounts of material. The environmental benefits of this are dubious.

Many councils also believe increasing the complexity of the recycling system reduces residents’ willingness to recycle and believe fewer bins for households – with them putting a number of different recyclables into the same bin – has greater benefits.

DCN analysis of today’s data shows that six of the top 10 recycling councils have ‘comingled’ waste, with dry and clean recyclables such glass, metal, paper and card, and plastics in a single bin. The other four have ‘twin stream’ systems with paper and card collected separately from other materials. This suggests that existing collection systems are producing the strongest results.

DCN’s environment spokesperson is Cllr Sarah Nelmes, the leader of Three Rivers District Council, which has the best recycling rate.

Cllr Nelmes said: “We have been in the top 10 recycling authorities for the past 10 years – and I am immensely proud of that fact. It is great that this year we have once again returned to the top of the list.

“This is no accident: it is thanks to the wide dedication of the council and of our residents and I congratulate all involved and thank everyone for their efforts. “Recycling and composting are so vital in our effort to keep resources in use for longer as we work to protect our planet.

“Across the country, district councils are leading the way in boosting recycling and we seek to work with the Government to devise local systems that further increase recycling and – equally importantly – reduce the level of waste overall.

“The strongest recycling councils have used their knowledge of their local geography and the needs of their local community to devise the system which works best in their area, and we need to retain this local discretion for further success in future.”


Notes for editors.

You can read Defra’s data here.

The two top 10s for council recycling and residual waste per household follow.


Top 10 council recyclers

Authority Residual household waste per household (kg/household) (Ex NI191) Percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting (Ex NI192)
Three Rivers District Council 321.8 63.5%
South Oxfordshire District Council 319.1 62.7%
St Albans City & District Council 321.1 62.4%
Vale of White Horse District Council 309.1 61.9%
East Devon District Council 269.2 61.0%
Stockport MBC 314.7 60.3%
East Riding of Yorkshire Council 447.4 60.1%
Rochford District Council 385.9 59.9%
Tandridge District Council 363.6 59.9%
South Gloucestershire Council 402.3 59.9%




Top 10 councils: residual waste per household


Authority Residual household waste per household (kg/household) (Ex NI191) Percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting (Ex NI192)
East Devon District Council 269.2 61.0%
Stroud District Council 300.9 58.2%
Vale of White Horse District Council 309.1 61.9%
City of London 309.8 31.9%
Stockport MBC 314.7 60.3%
South Oxfordshire District Council 319.1 62.7%
West Devon Borough Council 320.9 54.1%
St Albans City and District Council 321.1 62.4%
Lambeth LB 321.5 34.5%
Three Rivers District Council 321.8 63.5%