24th October 2020

Somerset’s annual register reveals recycling on the up

More recycled and reused, with £15 million of landfill costs avoided – that is the key highlight in the latest “Beyond the Kerb – Recycling to Resources” report.

The pioneering Somerset Waste Partnership report analyses the annual register of what happens to the materials residents put out kerbside or take to recycling sites.

Cans to card, garden waste to wood, the report tracks the destination of the 135,420 tonnes kept out of landfill in 2019-20 – up 1,686 tonnes on the previous year – and calculates the carbon saved as the equivalent to taking almost 26,000 cars off the road for a year.

In 2008, Somerset became the first waste authority to offer transparent reporting of what happens to recycling. 

Annual reports since then have demonstrated the progress made by residents and waste staff in driving up recycling rates from 15% to this year’s 52.8%, up almost 0.5% over 2018-19.

More than half of Somerset recycling stays in Somerset, including much of the metals, wood and electrical items. All 18,572 tonnes of food waste turn into electricity and farm compost at the county’s anaerobic digestion plant, and all 42,490 tonnes of garden waste become compost. 

And 90% of Somerset’s recycling stays in the UK. That includes all or most of the glass bottles and jars, steel and aluminium cans, beverage cartons, aerosols, water-based paint, oil – both engine and cooking – and the fast-rising levels of plastic pots, tubs, trays and bottles recycled.

Somerset is supplying many thousands of tonnes of items that are that are being turned into the raw materials for new products and packaging in plants across the country, from as close to home as Devon and Wiltshire to Kent and Yorkshire, Wales and Manchester. 

Due to a lack of UK reprocessing capacity or demand, SWP’s two main contractors sent a small proportion of some materials overseas in 2019-20. So, nothing is wasted or dumped, every tonne is carefully tracked to the first destination company and its location. 

For example, some Somerset textiles were reused overseas, a proportion of plastic bottles went to legitimate Asian outlets to become new plastic packaging, and paper and card were exported to countries like India to come back as packaging for imported white goods and electronics.

As new recycling facilities come on line, including a big plastics plant in Avonmouth, even more will be achieved. SWP and its contractors have said that if there is enough reprocessing capacity and demand to keep Somerset’s recycling in the UK, none of it will be exported.

A SWP spokesman said: “For more than a decade, Somerset has set out exactly what happens to recycling, ensuring confidence in its systems as it transforms waste services, from ending almost all landfill to boosting recycling with new Recycle More collections.” 

For details, visit somerset.gov.uk/beyond-the-kerb