Eunomia Launches New Recycling Carbon Index

1st August 2014

Eunomia’s latest Carbon Index Report shows that, compared with the previous year 2012/13 saw a 3% decrease in the amount of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions saved through local authority recycling in England and Wales. Northern Ireland’s performance has improved by one per cent.

The reduced benefit comes despite a small rise of 0.2% in recycling rate in England over the same period, and is caused by a marked decline in the amount of textiles and metal collected. These materials have high levels of embodied carbon and energy and the fall in their captures outweighs the gains from increased recycling of food and plastics.

The reduction in the carbon benefit from municipal recycling sheds new light on the implications of the plateauing of raw recycling rate performance for England at around 43% in recent years. The European Commission has recommended that the statutory recycling rate for municipal waste should rise to 70% by 2030, but under current policies the CO2e performance of recycling schemes in England appears to be moving in the wrong direction.

Despite the overall decrease, some authorities managed to achieve significant improvements in their results. The top performers in England in 2012/13 were Cheshire West and Chester, moving just ahead of last year’s leaders, North Somerset. In Wales, Powys achieved the highest saving. These three have the distinction of being the only councils covered by the index that saved more than 100kg of CO2e per person within their area. This is achieved without the authorities being top performers on recycling rates.


CO2e Saved (kg per person) 2011/12 CO2e Saved (kg per person) 2012/13 Recycling Rate 2012/13
Cheshire West and Chester 98 105 56.1%
North Somerset 111 104 58.4%
Powys 86 102 50.9%
Ceredigion 102 99 53.6%
Isle of Anglesey 102 96 55.2%
Somerset 96 96 50.3%


Many of the authorities achieving the lowest CO2e savings are in inner cities, especially Central London.

Eunomia’s Local Authority Recycling Carbon Index is an alternative measure of the environmental performance of councils’ waste and recycling services. Now in its second year, the Carbon Index supplements statistics on recycling rates by showing the CO2e savings that result from councils’ recycling efforts, giving a greater insight into the wider environmental performance of councils’ waste management services.

James Fulford, Director at Eunomia, said:

“The reduction in carbon benefit from household recycling in England and Wales between 2011/12 and 2012/13 highlights the importance of considering the full environmental impacts of recycling services. It is encouraging that despite the changing composition of the recycling being collected, some authorities have managed to make impressive improvements. We need efficient collection services that effectively maximise environmental performance. The report and online tool will help waste managers to identify good practice and understand how they may need to focus their efforts to improve the environmental performance of their own services.”