Record recycling rates as plastic and card roll-out continues

21 September 2016

Recycling rates in South Lakeland are shooting up as residents embrace new kerbside recycling services.

New figures show tonnages of both recycling and green waste for August were at record levels – bucking national trends which show recycling rates levelling off in the past few years.

In August this year South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) collected 526.46 tonnes of recyclables, easily beating the previous best August figure of 465.56 tonnes collected in 2014.

Council workers also picked up a best ever 1,392.60 tonnes of green waste last month, topping the previous record of 1,260.30 tonnes, again from August 2014.

After a decade of steadily increasing recycling rates nationally, analysts had noticed a slow-down and levelling off in the amount of recycling in the past three or four years. (see note 1)

This has been attributed to various factors, from ‘green fatigue’ to changing consumer trends as people buy (and therefore recycle) fewer newspapers and a switch by manufacturers to using more modern lightweight packaging and less glass jars and heavier cardboard.

“The background of the national picture makes the significant increases in recycling rates in South Lakeland even more pleasing’’ said Councillor David Fletcher, SLDC’s portfolio holder for the Environment.

“We always hoped that our roll-out of plastic and cardboard kerbside recycling, making it easier for people to recycle at home, would start to reverse that trend locally but the increases are even greater than we anticipated.

“What we have seen is that in areas where we have introduced the plastic and card collections there quickly follows a noticeable increase in tonnages of all recyclable materials, not just from the expected plastic and card – it seems the arrival of the blue bag is the trigger for a renewed enthusiasm for all recycling!

“We are also seeing people requesting more replacement and additional blue boxes and green bins in these areas, and the tonnage figures clearly demonstrate our residents are embracing this green revolution.’’

The most recent areas to move onto the new plastic and card collections were Kirkby-in-Furness and Broughton-in-Furness last week. The new collections have already been rolled out to areas including Kendal, Ulverston town, Kirkby Lonsdale, Milnthorpe, Burton-in-Kendal, Ulverston coastal villages, Arnside, Levens, Newby Bridge, Backbarrow, Dent and Sedbergh.

Now that the busier summer holiday period is at an end attention is now switching to the Lakes, with Grasmere getting blue bag deliveries this Thursday and Friday (22/23 September) and Coniston and Ambleside scheduled for early October. This will mean just over 60% of households in the district will be getting the plastic and card collections.

Simon Rowley, SLDC’s Assistant Director of Neighbourhood Services, explained that the increases in recycling tonnages had presented some welcome challenges for the collection service.

“It’s great to see residents using the new service so enthusiastically, but it does mean that we are constantly having to tweak and refine the rounds to make sure we have the right amount of capacity in the right areas.

For example, on occasions there may be very large quantities of recycling materials placed out for collection which can reduce capacity on the vehicles, this can consequently mean some residents may have to wait for their recycling to be collected.

“We are continually tweaking and adjusting the new rounds to ensure we’ve got the right capacity and we resolve any emerging issues quickly, but there’s always a chance that, particularly while a new area is settling down and we are analysing the tonnages, some collections may not be as perfect as we’d like and we’d ask people to bear with us.

“In a sense we are victims of our own success and it’s a nice problem to have, but we appreciate it can be annoying if you’ve done your bit and filled your recycling containers but then have to wait a bit longer for them to picked up.’’

Councillor Fletcher added: “It should be remembered that we have undertaken a huge project here. First we had to change the rounds and routes to make them as efficient as possible and that meant changing the collection days of thousands of residents.

“Then we introduced new vehicles to the rounds and delivered the new blue bags for plastic and cans in carefully worked-out phases, moving an average of 1,000 homes a week onto the new collections.

“We are still on track to have everyone in South Lakeland getting plastic and card collections by our deadline of March next year, and we’ve done all that despite the service being heavily involved in the flooding clean-up operation, removing an additional 630 tonnes of flood-damaged waste.

“All this has been achieved within existing budgets and resources and it’s great credit to this authority that this project is on target and is clearly being so well received by our residents.’’


More information about recycling rates nationally is available.  

For more information, please contact the SLDC Communications Team on 01539 793300.