The amount of household waste being recycled in Cornwall dropped to its lowest rate for a decade last year according to new figures.

Cornwall Council collected 261,085 tonnes of waste in 2019/20 but just a third (33.3%) of that was reused, recycled or composted.

That meant that the amount of waste recycled was the lowest for a decade after reaching a high of 38.1% in 2018/19.

Cornwall was also below the national average in 2019/20 for the amount of waste recycled.

The council has been working to push up recycling rates in Cornwall but its own figures published in February 2020 show that just 27.11% of kerbside waste was recycled.

And while the top recycling areas in Cornwall saw almost 42% of waste recycled some areas recycled as little as 15%.

Cornwall Council has entered into a new waste contract which will see changes to kerbside collections, expected to start next year.

This will see recycling and black bag waste both collected fortnightly – a change from the current system where black bag waste is collected weekly and recycling collected fortnightly.

However the new system will also see the introduction of a new weekly food waste collection service.

The new contract will also see recycling bins being placed in streets across Cornwall so that people can recycle waste “on the go”.

Cornwall Council has said that it has plans for an education campaign to run with the rollout of the new waste collection service in a bid to push up recycling rates.

Cornwall Council\s new rubbish and recycling collections due to start in June 2021 (Image: Cornwall Council)

Cornwall Council\'s new rubbish and recycling collections due to start in June 2021 (Image: Cornwall Council)

Looking nationally local authorities in England dealt with 23.0 million tonnes of waste collected from households in 2019/20. Of that, 43.8% was recycled.

That’s the highest rate since records began, but the proportion has only increased from 41.5% in 2010/11, and was only up from 43.5% in 2018/19.

England’s performance means the UK is far from a target to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020. 

Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner Sam Chetan-Welsh said: “The root of the problem is that we’re still producing way more rubbish than our recycling sector can cope with.

“As well as investing in better recycling and making it easier for people to sort their waste, we also need to turn off the tap at the source. 

“That’s why the UK government must set legally binding targets to cut single-use plastic in half by 2025, ban exports of plastic waste, and introduce an all-inclusive deposit return scheme for drinks containers.”

Local government also backed more action to cut non-recyclable waste at source.

David Renard, Environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Households have made a real shift over the past decade to ensure they are recycling as much as possible and councils work hard to share information on what can and can’t be recycled. This has resulted in an increase in recycling rates over the past decade.

“The next step in reducing unnecessary waste is to work with the government to address the responsibility of manufacturers of plastic packaging who continue to create and sell packaging that cannot be recycled and will be put in the recycling bin by people in good faith.

“The burden then falls on councils to not only collect it and dispose of it, but to pay the extra cost of disposing of it.

“We will be working with the government and the waste industry as part of the Environment Bill to ensure this issue is addressed and to understand the impact of the ban on exports of plastic waste to non-OECD countries.”

The Environment Bill, currently going through parliament, includes measures to make producers cover the cost of collecting and recycling packaging waste and to introduce deposit return schemes and charges for single-use plastic items, and will ensure consistent recycling schemes for households across England.

A Defra spokesperson said: “Recycling and reusing more of our waste, and ensuring we get the most out of our precious resources, are central to our ambition to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.

“We are making positive progress, with less than 10% of household waste now going to landfill and the amount of food waste being recycled increasing by over 40% since 2015.

“But there is still a lot more to do, and that’s why we have brought forward major reforms for packaging and kerbside collections which will boost recycling, step up our war on plastic pollution and reduce litter.”

In a statement the council said: "Cornwall Council is committed to improving recycling rates across the Duchy.

"We urge everyone to play their part by thinking about how much they throw away and recycle as much as they can. We can all make a start by reducing the amount of food we put in the bin.

"Currently around one third of the contents of the average black bin bag in Cornwall is made up of food waste. By shopping smarter, using leftovers and home composting you can make a huge difference.

"Under our new contract with Biffa, we will be making changes to kerbside collection services to improve recycling rates.

"We provide a comprehensive kerbside collection service and are encouraging everyone to recycle one more thing. For example, some people don’t realise that shampoo and shower gel bottles can be recycled. You can find out what to recycle and how at

"The material that we collect for recycling at the kerbside is a very high quality. We are able to send 99% of your recycling directly to reprocessors here in the UK to be turned into new commodities.

"We do not send material that has been collected for recycling abroad. The 1% that we cannot recycle is sent to the energy from waste plant at St Dennis."