Rubbish piled up in lockdown as recycling rates fell

Ipswich bin collectors

The amount of rubbish collected from homes has increased over the last year. - Credit: Paul Geater

New figures from Ipswich council show how the amount of domestic rubbish sent to Suffolk's incinerator has increased significantly over the last year since the first lockdown started.

And the amount of material recycled has also fallen significantly - although council bosses insist this is not necessarily bad news for the environment.

Ipswich council's portfolio holder for the environment and transport Phil Smart is due to give his annual report to the borough's Scrutiny Committee on Thursday - with figures showing that the average non-recyclable waste produced by each household increased from 564kg in 2019/20 to 654kg in 2020/21.

The proportion of household waste that could be recycled fell from almost 35% in 2019/20 to 33% in 2020/21. 

And the number of missed collections rose dramatically from 18 per 100,000 properties to 84 - although the council says this was probably more because of the number of roadworks in the town than directly caused by the pandemic.

There have been changes in how missed bins can be reported - and this has resulted in the number of missed collections being halved during the current year.

One other impact of the pandemic Mr Smart will report on is that the proportion of allotments being actively cultivated in the town has increased from 86% to 92%.

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He said that the figures for Ipswich were very similar to those reported by councils across Suffolk - and probably across the country.

"So far as the domestic waste is concerned, it isn't a great surprise. Over the last year many more people have been spending much longer at home.

"Before this many people went out of the workplaces at lunchtime, bought a sandwich and threw away the wrapping in the office or in a public waste bin that was then collected as trade waste. Now they are eating at home and putting any packaging in their domestic rubbish.

"So far as recycling is concerned, it is certainly true that people are looking to buy goods that have less packaging. That has led to a reduction in the amount of material going to be recycled - and that is good overall for the environment."