Published: 14:19, 30 November 2019
| Updated: 18:13, 30 November 2019
Kent is on the verge of burning more rubbish than it recycles, figures reveal.
In 2018-19, 345,985 tonnes of rubbish were incinerated in the county, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
That was 48% of the local authority's waste.
The vast majority was sent to specialist energy-from-waste power plants as fuel to generate heat and electricity.
Most of the rubbish in Kent, 50%, has been recycled or composted, but the proportion of waste incinerated has risen by 2% since the year before.
Across England, burning waste has become more common. Around 44% of rubbish is now incinerated compared with 42% in 2017-18.
Last year a cross party report in the House of Lords called on the government to take oversight of the industry and introduce an incineration tax.
It followed research revealing that incinerators in England caused more pollution over a year than 250,000 lorries travelling 75,000 miles each.
Kent sent 12,050 tonnes of waste to landfill, 2% of the rubbish collected by the council.
The government aims to recycle half of household waste by 2020 nationally and cut the proportion of rubbish sent to landfill to 10% by 2035.
But the trade body for waste disposers, the Environmental Services Association, said England is likely to miss its recycling target.
Jacob Hayler, the group's executive director, said greater awareness of pollution and environmental issues caused by waste "hasn't yet translated" into higher recycling rates.
"Despite the gloomy picture, we know that political change is on the horizon and that a raft of new policies, promised in the manifestos of all parties, are likely to give recycling the shot in the arm that it needs.
"But there will clearly be some serious catching up to do once they are implemented if we are to keep up with our European neighbours, and even the devolved administrations in Great Britain, over the next decade."
Shlomo Dowen, of United Kingdom Without Incineration Network, said much of the country's incinerated waste could be recycled.
He added: "It is simply unacceptable that so much of our valuable resources end up being lost through incineration.
"The government needs to support councils to renegotiate or cancel waste contracts that prioritise incineration over recycling. An incineration tax should be introduced to help fund recycling activities and to ensure that we make the best use of our discarded materials."
Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association's environment spokesman, said: "Councils want to increase recycling rates and have worked extremely hard to maintain them.
"The fact that recycled food waste has increased, waste sent to landfill has fallen and residual waste has decreased, reflects ongoing efforts by councils and is good news for the environment and consumers.
"The slight fall in the official recycling rates last year reflects the urgent need for manufacturers to stop putting non-recyclable items in the system, pay the full cost of recycling packaging and fund a producer responsibility scheme."
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More by this authorChris Britcher