England’s least wasteful towns and cities – how wasteful is yours?

Around 30% more rubbish is collected over the Christmas holiday period: this includes wrapping paper which could stretch around the world nine times, two million turkeys and six million sad-looking Christmas trees. By the time you’ve recovered from your New Year’s celebrations, it may shock you to see how many bin-bags of rubbish you’ve accumulated in a few short days.

At Bower Collective, we are passionate about helping people reduce their single-use-plastic waste, and have made it our business to know all there is about the UK’s waste contribution. Being curious, we researched the annual household waste per capita for over 100 English towns and cities - and we didn’t stop there. We looked at the percentage of recycled household waste (although, as our previous blogs have explained, these recycling statistics should be taken with a generous pinch of salt when it comes to plastics) and fly-tipping rates in each locality.

To better understand your waste footprint, and see how you compare to the national and regional averages, we have created a tool which reveals just how wasteful your local area is, or isn’t! Using our tool, you can find the statistics for where you live, including how habits have changed over time and where your area’s waste score ranks in the country. Is your town or city one of England’s least wasteful?

Where does your town or city rank in England?

Overall Rank: based on a scoring metric which considers the weight of household waste produced per capita, the percentage of household waste which is recycled per capita and the number of fly-tipping incidents per capita in each town and city.

Household waste: the average amount of household waste in kilograms each person produces per year.
Recycling rank: based on the percentage of household waste per year which is recycled.
Fly-tipping incidents: the number of fly-tipping incidents per 10,000 residents reported by the local council per year.
How has city/town’s waste habits changed over the last five years?

What positive changes have your town or city made to its waste habits, and where is there room for improvement? We compared the results from 2019-20 to 2014-15 to find out.

Household waste generated:
Recycled household waste:

England’s Least Wasteful Towns and Cities

Before we get stuck into crowning our winners, what are the English averages? The average household waste per person across all the 112 English towns and cities in the study was 403 kg, which is about as heavy as a horse!
Considering all factors, England’s least wasteful town is Stroud, Gloucestershire. Green and clean, it’s no surprise that Stroud has been named the best place to live in March 2021.

Home to the English organic movement, Stroud scored particularly well on recycling, and has the second highest recycling rate, after Halifax in West Yorkshire. The town ranks 4th for the least amount of waste per household, with an average resident producing just 299 kg per year.

The second least wasteful are found in Colchester, Essex. Colchester residents produce the 2nd least household waste per person. The town also scored well for recycling, with the 6th highest rates. Placing third position is the coastal town of Dover, Kent. Dover ranked 6th for its amount of household waste 305 kg and 7th for its recycling rates.

Completing the top five were Worcester, Worcestershire and St Albans, Hertfordshire, respectively.

Some towns and cities didn’t fare as well, and Nottingham, South Shields and Sunderland ranked at the bottom of the study. But these towns shouldn’t be disheartened - there’s plenty of easy ways to reduce waste (and at the bottom of this page we have some handy pointers to get started).

Table of least wasteful towns and cities in England
Workers collecting rubbish

Least Wasteful by Category

Halifax, West Yorkshire has the highest recycling rates in the UK of household waste. Stroud claimed second place, and Swindon in Wiltshire, although producing a large 419 kgs of waste per household, came third. It is worth noting the caveat that recycling rates do not tell the full story of what actually gets recycled, particularly when it comes to plastics.

Northampton residents produce the least waste per person, creating a mere 107 kg per year. Colchester claimed second place with 295 kgs of waste and Exeter, in Devon, produces a fraction more than 295 kg.

Interestingly, there was little correlation between towns and cities that produced less household waste and those who fly-tipped least. Chelmsford in Essex has the least reported incidents of fly-tipping per capita in the UK, with only eight incidents reported in one year, well below the urban average of 148. Cheltenham and Stratford-upon-Avon also have clean, conscientious residents, with only 21 and 26 incidents reported, respectively.

Person holding a box full of recycling

The Most Improved Towns and Cities

However, improving any habit takes time, and by looking at the difference over time, we can also reveal which towns and cities are reducing their waste and recycling habits.

London has seen a 42% reduction in its generated household waste -- scooping up the award for ‘most improved’. Other towns that should give themselves a pat on the back are Eastbourne, and Portsmouth, who also saw big reductions. When it comes to recycling, Bournemouth has seen a 28% increase and Cambridge saw a 21% increase, which are both far above the third next improved town of Rotherham with 5%.

The last month or so may have been the most wasteful period of the year, but the New Year is also a great time to pause, reflect and commit to change. So, why not make being less wasteful one of your 2022 resolutions? Unfortunately, only a small percentage of what we put in our recycling bins is successfully recycled.

But don’t despair! We’ve made it our mission to make waste reduction as easy as possible. To get started, why not use our handy shopping list tool to build a Bower basket tailored to your household needs. Have a read of our blog for tips or advice, or find out how our subscription service could slash your home’s single-use-plastic waste output and save you money. We’re here to help you begin your journey towards a more sustainable future.