North East councils are recycling less waste on average than they did 10 years ago, and are still missing failed 2020 targets, new data reveals.

Just 30 per cent of household waste across the region was sent for reuse, recycling or for composting last year, government figures show.

It’s down from 36 per cent ten years ago with not one council in the region hitting a missed UK target to recycle half of all waste by 2020.

Environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy said a simpler recycling system is needed as England falls “further and further behind” its European counterparts.

Durham County Council (DCC) recycles more than any other in the North East (37.1 per cent), but has still seen a decline of more than six percentage points on a decade ago (43.6 per cent).

DCC and Darlington Borough Council (DBC) were both leading the way ten years ago with rates hitting more than 44 per cent, but have seen rates fall.

See how rates in Durham and Darlington have changed in the last decade

Both blamed Covid for an increase in ‘black bag waste’ while DBC said the government had chanced what it can count as recycling compared to 10 years ago.

Allison Ogden-Newton OBE, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “It is disappointing to see our recycling rates falling at a time when we should be doing more than ever to stop valuable materials being buried or burned.

“We are falling further and further behind some of our neighbours in Europe. In Germany, 71 per cent of municipal waste is recycled and Slovenia has seen recycling rates increase from 22 per cent in 2010 to 60 per cent in 2021.”

She added producers need to make it easier for people by using packaging that can be recycled in kerbside bin collections alongside a simpler recycling system.

DBC’s Libby McCollom said: “Government changes in what we can count as recycling have had an impact on overall rates. There was also an increase in black bag waste created during the pandemic, which wasn’t matched by an increase in recycling. This black bag waste hasn’t fallen back to pre-Covid levels yet.

“Our rates similar to other North East councils and reflect a trend for recycling rates nationally. We are reviewing our service in line with government announcements around consistency of recycling and the introduction of food waste collections, and hope this will lead to an increase in rates."

Middlesbrough had the seventh lowest recycling rate in the country last year at just 23.1 per cent.

More than 60 councils nationwide did surpass the 50 per cent rate, the government stats show.

Durham councillor Mark Wilkes said: “While we appreciate rates have fluctuated in the last ten years, particularly during the pandemic which had lasting effects, we remains one of the areas with the highest recycling rate in the North East. We had the highest rate in 2022/23 and have seen an improvement again so far this year with rates back up to 40 per cent in 2023.

“We are committed to increasing the number of materials that are recycled and reducing contamination of recycling. Since 2021 we have introduced 186 new small electrical recycling collection points across the county to make it easier for residents to recycle unwanted electrical items instead of throwing them away. We are also currently expanding the number of vape recycling collection points. These points allow for a wider variety of materials to be recycled.”

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Environment minister Robbie Moore said: “Reducing waste and increasing recycling is crucial for protecting our environment for future generations.

“Overall, the amount of waste from households has gone down, but recycling rates have also fallen slightly this year.

“We know there is more to do and that is why we are pushing forward with plans for a new, simpler common-sense approach to recycling – making recycling easier for everyone across the country.”