Environment

These are the least wasteful towns and cities in England - is yours on the list?

Waste is a growing problem in the UK - but some towns and cities are leading the way on recycling and reducing waste.

Recycling rates have stalled across the UK. Image: Peter Facey (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Rubbish is a growing problem in the UK – with households producing tonnes of household waste each year and recycling rates starting to stall.

Not all areas are performing badly, however, with some local authorities performing much better on recycling rates and waste than others.

So how well is your local area doing? Thanks to a new interactive tool from sustainable living company Bower Collective, you can now see just how wasteful – or sustainable – your town or city is. 

How does the tool work? 

Bower Collective researched the annual household waste per capita for over 100 towns and cities in England, as well as looking at fly-tipping rates and the percentage of recycled household waste for each place. 

They then inputted this data into the tool, which allows users to select their town or city and see how it ranks on all of these points – as well as where it ranks out of English areas on wastefulness. 

The tool also allows you to see whether your local area has improved over time on recycling rates and waste.

Which areas performed best? 

Because the tool used several different measures to look at “wastefulness” in various towns and cities, the rankings are different for each. 

However, taking all the data together – on recycling rates per capita, household waste produced and fly-tipping rates – Bower Collective produced a top 10 list of the least wasteful towns and cities. The list is as follows: 

  1. Stroud
  2. Colchester
  3. Dover
  4. Worcester
  5. St Albans
  6. Aylesbury
  7. Bolton
  8. Wigan
  9. Bracknell & Watford (tie) 
  10. Halifax

Stroud topped the list as the place with the second highest recycling rate, and was fourth for lowest amount of waste per household.

While the average waste produced per household in England is 403kg, weighing the same as a horse, the average in Stroud was just 299kg per person. 

Which areas fared less well?

According to the tool, areas like Nottingham, South Shields and Sunderland performed less well on measures like recycling rates and fly tipping. 

However, lower recycling rates are driven by many different factors and don’t necessarily indicate that people in these areas are less willing to recycle. 

Analysis by the Guardian newspaper in 2020, for instance, showed that higher levels of deprivation in an area were linked to lower recycling rates. 

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Which areas are improving? 

The tool also analysed which areas have improved on their wastefulness in recent years.

London has seen the biggest reduction in household waste, of 42 per cent since 2014/2015.

Eastbourne, and Portsmouth also saw big reductions in household waste, while Bournemouth’s recycling rate has increased 28 per cent, with Cambridge just behind with a 21 per cent increase.

How can I prevent wastefulness? 

There are plenty of ways you can take action on waste in your own household.

The first step should always be to buy less, or buy sustainably or second-hand where you can. 

You should always consider reusing something before throwing it away or recycling it, especially when it comes to items made of plastic.

Where you can’t reuse items directly, try to recycle them, using our handy guide to recycling and recycling symbols to help.

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