Research and Analytics


CIPFA Waste Collection and Disposal Statistics

July 2000

Since Local Government Reorganisation in 1974, District Councils in England have been responsible for the collection of waste and County Councils responsible for its disposal. The London Boroughs, Metropolitan Authorities, English Unitaries and Welsh Unitaries are responsible for both functions.

Two specific survey series were installed after this reorganisation; a joint initiative between the DETR, the Welsh Office and CIPFA led to the annual publication of statistics on 'Waste Collection'; and the Society of County Treasurers co-operated with CIPFA on the 'Waste Disposal' data. These surveys collected a reasonably comprehensive record of waste management activities and costs until the latter part of the 1980's when the response rate of authorities dramatically declined and both series of statistics were discontinued. The decline in the response rate may, to a large extent, be attributed to the introduction of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) for a wide range of local government services including waste collection and street cleansing. Authorities expressed concern about the sensitivity of information, given the accessibility to private contractors with whom they were now in competition. It became increasingly apparent that the surveys needed to be redrafted to switch the emphasis away from CCT towards the implications of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and EC regulations. The design and purpose of the new surveys has emerged after extensive consultation with local authorities. They aim to provide relevant information to assist each authority to compare its activities and its relative progress in implementing the various legislative changes that have taken place over the past few years. The new surveys place more emphasis on the scope and level of service provision, in particular the levels of recovery and recycling of waste materials.

A detailed note on methodology follows this commentary.

1998-99 Actuals

Returns have been received from 338 authorities, a response rate of 81%. For the first time, where appropriate, gross data have been used in the publication to take account of both missing values and non-responding authorities. This has been effected by using data from the DETR's 1997-98 Waste Management survey. We have assumed increases in waste arising and net expenditure between 1997-98 and 1998-99 based on real data from responding authorities and applied this to the DETR's 1997-98 data. These totals have then been apportioned across the various waste categories and expenditure analysis based on real data received for 1998-99.

The survey gathers information on the following:

General Characteristics

Population, numbers and types of hereditaments. These statistics enable more meaningful comparisons to be made between authorities.

Operational Management

Illustrates the method of service delivery i.e. whether the service is provided by private contractors, DSO or a joint arrangement between the two. It also provides details of the range of services that are undertaken.

Service provision

The scope and level of services provided i.e. the types of waste containment used, the frequency and method of collection etc.

Weight Data

This section provides details of the amounts of waste collected and its treatment and disposal.

Materials Recovery

The amount of waste recovered for reclamation. Information is also provided on home composting.

Costs of Service Provision

Detailed information of authorities' capital and revenue expenditure in 1999-2000. It also identifies the net cost of specific processes e.g. special collections, incineration etc. together with information on recycling credits.

Waste Collection

Prior to the implementation of the Local Government Act 1988, refuse collection was mainly carried out by staff directly employed by the local authority. There were, however, already a significant number of authorities using private contractors to undertake waste collection services on their behalf. In 1982-83 for example, there were 28 local authorities using private contractors, at least in part to collect their waste. Figure 1 illustrates the position in 1998-99.

Operational Management.
The most common methods of waste containment are:

  • Plastic Wheeled Bins;
  • Disposable Plastic Sacks; and
  • Conventional Dustbins;
The type of container used by households has been proven to directly influence the quantity of waste arising. Authorities, for example, that have introduced wheeled bins generally report higher waste per capita compared to those households where the waste is placed in disposable plastic sacks or conventional dustbins. Figure 2 analyses the types of waste containment used.

Waste Containment.
Figure 3 illustrates the method of collection. Categories have been classified according to the number of households that receive that particular method of collection.

Method of Collection.
Table 1 identifies the amount and sources of waste collected by waste collection authorities in 1998-99.

Weight of Waste Arising (Grossed Data).
For the purposes of these statistics it has been assumed that two-thirds of the waste collected from mixed hereditaments is household waste. Using this assumption it can be seen that household waste represents approximately 89% of total waste arising.

However, data on waste is often limited to volumes, thus estimates of weight and the statistics have to be treated with caution, e.g. only 186 authorities (62% of respondents to this section of the survey) indicated that all waste was weighed.

Where authorities weigh all their waste, per capita arisings tend to be much lower compared to authorities that estimate their overall tonnage. Within this survey, excluding the Corporation of London and the Isles of Scilly, figures range from 843 kilograms per head in Trafford, to 155 kilograms per head in Lichfield. A large number of authorities (49% of responders) report figures of between 300 and 400 kilograms per capita. Overall the mean quantity of waste collected per capita per year is 400 kilograms, or 8 kilograms per weeks. Figure 4 illustrates:

Household Waste per Capita.
Government legislation requires that half of all recyclable household waste should be recycled by the year 2000, which is approximately 25% of all household waste arising. However this became a secondary target in 1995 when the government introduced a new target of 40% for the year 2005 - recovery to include recycling, composting and energy recovery.

Whilst there has been a marked increase in the amount and range of materials reclaimed by authorities, the survey results indicate that current recycling rates for waste collection authorities average just over 7% of total household waste.

Recycling of Materials (Household Waste Only) (Grossed Data).
Waste Disposal

Section 51 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 placed a requirement on each waste disposal authority to arrange for the disposal of controlled waste collected in its area by the waste collection authorities and to provide places in its area where persons resident may deposit their bulky household waste. These sites are known as civic amenity sites and since the mid 1980s they have become more important as recycling centres. As with waste collection the private sector is heavily involved in these operations. Figure 5 illustrates the current position with respect to private and public sector service provision.

Operational Management.
Table 3 identifies the amount and sources of waste arising in waste disposal authorities in 1998-99.

Waste Arising (Grossed Data).
Because of the restricted opportunities for certain types of disposal e.g. landfill in urban areas, there are major differences in methods of treatment and disposal in the authorities surveyed. However, the landfilling of untreated waste remains the most widely used form of final disposal. Because of the difficulties of finding suitable sites for landfill purposes and the increasing waste regulation standards on all landfilling operations there is likely to be a move away from landfill in the future.

Table 4 summarises the amount of waste disposed to landfill and by other methods, by class of authority.

Disposal of Waste (Grossed Data).
Table 5 summarises the amounts and types of materials recycled by waste disposal authorities in 1998-99.

Recycling of Materials (Grossed Data).
Costs of Service Provision

This section provides detailed information of authorities' capital and revenue expenditure in 1998-99. Information is also provided on the net cost of specific processes and recycling credits. Tables 6, 7 and 8 show revenue expenditure for waste collection, disposal and combined collection and disposal authorities respectively.

Costs of Service Provision - Waste Collection Authorities (Grossed Data).
Costs of Service Provision - Waste Disposal Authorities (Grossed Data).
Costs of Service Provision - Combined Waste Collection and Disposal Authorities (Grossed Data).
Revenue Expenditure per Head.
There has been much discussion on the calculation of recycling rates for waste collection and disposal authorities. For the purposes of these statistics the recycling rates have been calculated as shown in the Explanatory Notes on page 14. Total recycling rates for disposal, collection and waste management authorities are shown in Table 10.

Recycling Rates (Grossed Data).
Recycling credits are payments for the diversion of waste away from landfill. Recycling credits are statutory between Collection and Disposal authorities, however payments to third parties are optional. Columns 278 to 301 provide information on recycling credits, which is summarised in Table 11 below. Information provided by waste collection authorities has been excluded to avoid double counting.

Waste Disposal Recycling Credits (Grossed Data).
The predominance of landfill in current waste management practices reflects the fact that landfill is the least expensive waste management option in most areas. In recognition that there is a need to reduce the reliance on landfill as the main waste management route the government introduced a Landfill Tax in October 1996.

The underlying purpose of the tax is to ensure that landfill waste is properly priced to reflect its environmental impact. It is intended to encourage business and consumers to produce less waste and to recover value from more of the waste that is produced, for example, by recycling. The tax is levied per tonne on the weight of waste deposited. A lower rate is applied to inactive waste which does not decay and is not contaminated. Table 12 below provides details.

Landfill Tax (Grossed Data).
Interpretation of the Statistics

Attention is drawn to the significant caveats that should be borne in mind in looking at the statistical tables. The wide variety of local conditions make it impossible to isolate any single performance or efficiency and extreme care should be exercised when undertaking any inter-authority comparisons.

Users should also appreciate the problems associated with the estimation of quantities of waste collected and disposed of and differences in accounting practices, in particular the methods of financing capital assets. Also, standards of service may vary considerably between localities, e.g. frequency of collection and quality of service provision. Method and organisation of waste containment will affect costs.

July 2000

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