Consultation on Consistency in Household and Business Recycling Collections in England

Closed 13 May 2019

Opened 18 Feb 2019


The Government supports comprehensive and frequent rubbish and recycling collections. We have seen household recycling rates in England increase significantly from 11% in 2001 to 45.2% in 2017.  However, in recent years, progress has been slower and rates have remained at around 44/45%.  While many local authorities continue to make improvements and introduce new services some have seen a drop in recycling rates and do not collect the full range of materials that can be recycled or do not collect food waste separately. Householders who want to recycle more are increasingly confused about what can be recycled. 

Plastic waste is one of the world’s most urgent environmental problems. Public awareness of plastics as an environmental concern has risen in recent years, and there's a large demand for better waste managment including better recycling.  Apart from Landfill Tax, which has incentivised diversion from landfill disposal and historically helped to increase recycling rates, there are very few current drivers to encourage local authorities to expand recycling services or for businesses to invest in recycling services. This makes it harder to improve the quantity and quality of what we recycle.

China’s ban in 2018 on the import of post-consumer contaminated plastic and paper has also added to the need to improve the quality of what is collected for recycling and to reduce contamination. Contamination arises from people putting items in their recycling bin that are not collected locally for recycling or materials which are not collected as part of dry recycling, such as nappies or food waste. Improving the quality of material collected would help to increase demand for these materials in the UK and help to ensure that they meet higher quality standards for export.

Members of the public, industry and other stakeholders have called for greater consistency in the materials collected for recycling as well as, to some extent, how it is collected. There have also been calls for investment in separate food waste collection to reduce the amount of food waste going to landfill, where it releases harmful greenhouse gases. 

Please note that this consultation will close at 23:59 on 13th May.

If you would like to keep in contact with us to express interest in this, or any other Defra consultation, please give us your details through the link below


  • Anyone from any background


  • Natural environment
  • Local nature partnerships
  • Climate change
  • Green infrastructure
  • Marine
  • Marine Conservation Zones
  • Waste and recycling
  • Air quality
  • Sewerage
  • Air pollution
  • Ozone
  • Chemicals and pesticides
  • Genetic Modification (GM)
  • Local environments
  • Food labelling
  • Food standards
  • Retailers