Fairer recycling? Show me the money!

Government has re-committed to UK Net Zero by 2050 and revealed its ‘Simpler Recycling’ plans for England.

By 31st March 2026, all authorities must collect food waste weekly from “most” households and recyclable waste in glass, metal, plastic, paper and card, and garden waste. Significantly, dry recyclable materials can now be co-mingled for collection, reducing the number of bins required and garden waste will remain chargeable.

Residual waste is expected to be collected “at least fortnightly” in line with the perceived issue of ‘smelly bins’. That’s despite evidence from Wales that three or four weekly collection allied to weekly food waste increase recycling rates and reduce carbon footprint – the fact it also reduces delivery cost is a bonus.

The rules will also apply to businesses, excluding garden waste, by 31 March 2025. For authorities operating commercial waste collection this presents an income growth opportunity but a competitive threat in turn.

Why be concerned? Time pressure is building, especially for procurement with so many authorities going to market at the same time. That position is further complicated by switching to alternative fuel vehicles in Climate Emergency response.

With increased regulatory clarity, it’s now as much about the money as being ‘green’ – Government has said authorities will be financially compensated, but the ‘devil’s in the detail’.

Importantly, funding for dry recyclables will transfer from Government to the packaging industry. Authorities will be paid based on an ‘efficient and effective’ solution. Under-performers may be penalised by Government and only get 80% of payments available – a potentially significant, unwelcome additional financial pressure.  Also, whilst changes may pay out in the longer-term, short-term peaks and troughs in income and capital investment may be hard for some budgets to bear.

East of England LGA is working with authorities to help navigate this maze, variously to develop their strategic response, review in-house operations, appraise future delivery options, re-procure or simply as an independent critical friend.

For an open discussion on how your authority is addressing this challenge, please contact Dave Fergus and David Fieldhouse.