The promise was to create the greenest city in the country.

But, two years after being elected, it appears the city's residents are not following the lead of their Green politicians.

While other local authorities across Sussex can boast of recycling rates of nearly 50%, Brighton and Hove is lagging far behind.

Official figures for 2012/13 show the amount of household waste currently recycled, reused or composted is 26.4% - down from just below 30% in 2008/9 and way below the target of 32%.

With town hall budgets getting smaller and every tonne recycled saving the council £44, it is clear those in charge have a real incentive to act.

A new communal recycling scheme involving 700 bins across the city centre area is expected to help.

But with recycling rate increases across the country now slowing down, the more ambitious aim of 40% by 2015/16 seems a long way off and the city's One Planet Living target of 70% by 2025 appears unattainable.

Labour councillor Gill Mitchell described the Greens' record as “abysmal”.

She said: “What is the point of Brighton and Hove being a 'One Planet City' if they can't get the basics right?”

But is the drop in recycling as clear as it appears?

The same report to councillors reveals the amount of waste produced per household is gradually on the decline.

Despite a small increase in the last year, figures show it is at 593kg per household, below the target of 609.6kg.


City council officials claim this is in part because consumers are ditching paper for computers, glass bottles are becoming lighter and more people are composting at home.

However, no evidence has been provided to back this up.

Added to this, Brighton and Hove is still a long way off two other Sussex councils - Crawley (286.9kg per household) and Lewes (294kg per household) - which were among the top ten councils in the country for the least amount of waste produced.

Conservative councillor Graham Cox said: “It is disappointing for residents of the city who want to recycle more.

“The excuses given for the fall are just that - excuses.

“We suggest the Green councillors get on the bus and visit all the nearby Conservative-run councils where recycling rates are higher and rising.”

For years, city council chiefs have said the biggest barrier has been those living in city centre areas have less space to store recycling.

That means they are more likely to throw it out immediately instead of holding onto it for fortnightly collections.

But all that appears to be changing after the local authority was awarded money from the government to roll out its communal recycling bin scheme.

By March 32,000 households in the city centre are expected to have to put their recyclable waste in large containers on the street.

The move is expected to boost recycling rates by 3%, improve the appearance of streets and save money.


Pete West, chairman of the council's environment committee, said: “Waste reduction and recycling has long been overlooked by previous administrations, which we're remedying through investing in the introduction of communal recycling bins in the city centre.

“This will make it just as easy for city centre residents to recycle as dispose of other waste.

“We are doing targeted work with communities and schools to encourage better recycling where needed.

“We've also been supporting a growing number of community food composting schemes across the city.

“Most importantly the overall amount of waste we produce has dropped, which is good news.”

One idea that has been raised is the idea of a green waste collection service, which is running successfully in other areas.

This means that householders can put grass and other garden refuse in a separate container.

However, because of the high density of housing in the city and the lack of gardens, Brighton and Hove is unlikely to follow other authorities' lead.

A council spokesman said: “A garden waste collection is likely to have only a small amount of users, as Brighton is an urban city with many multiple-occupancy buildings that do not have outside space, so the city as a whole produces a comparatively small amount of garden waste.

“We need to ensure that council tax payers receive value for money therefore we could not include a service which many residents would not benefit from.”

Is recycling the only area where the Green city is failing to be green? See tomorrow's Argus for a special report on air pollution in Brighton and Hove.