Birmingham's official recycling rate has plummeted to its lowest on record at a time.

New Government figures have revealed that in 2014/15 just 26.6 per cent of household waste was recycled, composted or reused - it was hovering around the 30 per cent mark for several years before that.

Birmingham’s is the lowest rate in the West Midlands where neighbouring Walsall, Dudley and Wolverhampton all recycle more than 40 per cent of waste. Across England, 43.7 per cent of household waste was recycled last year.

Council bosses have blamed the withdrawal of free garden waste collections, dubbed the 'garden tax', in 2014 for the dip, and say that the introduction of wheelie bins across much of the city since then will see the rate pick up in future.

But Green campaigners have called on the city council to look at extending its recycling and pointed out that the volume of stuff binned in Birmingham is also high.

Birmingham Friends of the Earth spokeswoman Libby Harris said: “As well as Birmingham’s recycling rate dropping to 26 per cent, the city has the highest rates of residual waste per household in the West Midlands.

“It is clear business-as-usual just wont cut it when it comes to making better use of the resources in Birmingham’s waste.

"The city council needs to look at other local authorities for ideas. A free service for the collection of household food waste allows high recycling rates in districts such as Stratford Upon Avon and Warwick. More urban areas such as Wolverhampton and Sandwell have better rates than Birmingham because they collect food waste separately.”

Councils are expected to recycle at least 50 per cent of waste by 2020. But Birmingham City Council’s bins chief Lisa Trickett said: “My aim is to reuse, repurpose and recycle our way to a zero waste city.”

The sudden drop last year followed the withdrawal of free garden waste collections which led to many either composting at home or putting their grass cuttings in with regular household rubbish.

A council spokesman also pointed out that early figures have shown that recycling rates are picking up where wheelie bins have been introduced over the last 18 months and they expect to see this reflected in next year's official statistics.

The council is currently drawing up its Future Waste strategy, looking at arrangements after the contract with Tyseley Incinerator operator Veolia ends in 2019.

Council bosses are offering a £5 discount on next year's £35 garden waste collection charge for residents who sign up before the end of December.

Source : Birmingham Mail