Less than half of Cornwall's waste is recycled, which means it could miss a key government environmental target.

In 2018-19, Cornwall recycled or composted 104,024 tonnes of waste – 39 per cent of all its rubbish – according to the latest Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs figures.

This was, however, better than last year, when 36 per cent of the rubbish was recycled.

Over the same year, England recycled 43 per cent of its rubbish.

The Government wants half of the country's household waste to be recycled by 2020.

But the trade body for waste disposers, the Environmental Services Association, said England is likely to miss its recycling target.

Jacob Hayler, the group's executive director, said greater awareness of pollution and environmental issues caused by waste "hasn't yet translated" into higher recycling rates.

"Despite the gloomy picture, we know that political change is on the horizon and that a raft of new policies, promised in the manifestos of all parties, are likely to give recycling the shot in the arm that it needs.

"But there will clearly be some serious catching up to do once they are implemented if we are to keep up with our European neighbours, and even the devolved administrations in Great Britain, over the next decade."

Incinerator plants burned 56 per cent of the rubbish produced in Cornwall. The vast majority was sent to specialist power plants to generate heat and electricity.

Cornwall sent 13,219 tonnes of waste to landfills, five per cent of the total.

The Government aims to cut the amount of rubbish going to landfill sites to 10 per cent by 2035.

Last year a cross party report in the House of Lords called on the Government to take oversight of the industry and introduce an incineration tax.

Shlomo Dowen, of United Kingdom Without Incineration Network, said much of the country's incinerated waste could be recycled.

He added: "It is simply unacceptable that so much of our valuable resources end up being lost through incineration.

"The Government needs to support councils to renegotiate or cancel waste contracts that prioritise incineration over recycling. An incineration tax should be introduced to help fund recycling activities and to ensure that we make the best use of our discarded materials."

Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association's environment spokesman, said: "Councils want to increase recycling rates and have worked extremely hard to maintain them.

"The fact that recycled food waste has increased, waste sent to landfill has fallen and residual waste has decreased, reflects ongoing efforts by councils and is good news for the environment and consumers.

"The slight fall in the official recycling rates last year reflects the urgent need for manufacturers to stop putting non-recyclable items in the system, pay the full cost of recycling packaging and fund a producer responsibility scheme."