Devon has one of the highest recycling rates in the UK

East Devon district council recycling contractor and truck

East Devon District Council recycling truck - Credit: LDRS

Devon’s recycling rate remains one of the highest in the country, despite a slight fall in the amount of waste being recycled.

Waste performance statistics, listed in a report that went before a meeting of district councillors, revealed Devon’s overall recycling rate had dipped to 55.3 per cent in 2020/21, down on the record 56.6 per cent the previous year.

However, the report said that due to a 'backdrop of reducing performance for other leading authorities' across the country, Devon was set to remain the second-best waste disposal authority in England.

The closure of waste recycling centres during lockdowns was a likely reason for the reduction, along with social distancing, the closure of resale shops and less capacity at the facilities.

East Devon was again the highest performing Devon authority, recycling 60 per cent of its waste. Alhough that is down half a percentage point on last year’s record figure, it is still expected to rank amongst the best performers nationally.

The report by Devon’s chief officer for highways, infrastructure, development and waste Meg Booth added: “East Devon now provides one of the most comprehensive waste collection services in England whilst encouraging high levels of participation through award-winning communications and pioneering residual waste policies.”

Other successes in 2020/21 were Torridge (55.2 per cent) and Mid Devon (53.7 per cent) which both achieved their highest recycling rate ever. Teignbridge, West Devon and South Hams also recycled more than half their waste.

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Despite Exeter recording the highest increase of 1.7 percentage points, its total of 27.8 per cent remains the lowest recycling rate in Devon. A pilot food-waste collection service is set to begin in one area of the city, but a similar service for glass was recently put on hold.

However, Exeter does produce the lowest amount of household waste per head in Devon (296kg). People in the South Hams are the highest waste generators (410kg).

Councillors were told how waste has increased in every area of the county compared with the previous year, with the exception of Torbay (part of the waste committee but which reports figures separately). “Changing waste behaviours, shopping habits and working from home” are some of the possible reasons.

The county has a target to recycle 60 per cent of waste by 2025 and 65 per cent by 2035; part of the council’s aim to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

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