100 Latest Recycling Statistics & Facts for the UK (2024)

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We could recycle lots of the items we use and consume every day. But what do the UK recycling statistics & facts tell about our willingness to do so? Let’s take a look!

HiddenFromTOCMost Significant Recycling Stats

  • British households create over 26 million tonnes of waste annually.
  • An average person throws away around 400 kilograms of waste annually.
  • London was the worst city in 2021, with a recycling rate of just 33%.
  • Cigarette filters are the most significant contributor to single-use-plastic in the UK.
  • The electrical cables stashed in UK homes could circulate the earth five times.

UK Recycling Statistics & Facts

  1. The UK recycling rate for Waste from Households (WfH) was 44.4% in 2020. (GOV.uk)
  2. The UK recycles only 3% more of its waste compared to 2010. (Recyclingbins)
  3. UK’s overall recycling rate was just 17% in 2008. (Statista)
  4. British households create over 26 million tonnes of waste annually. (Recyclingbins)
  5. Of the produced waste, the UK recycles 12 million tonnes. (Recyclingbins)
  6. Landfill sites receive 14 million tonnes of the produced waste. (Recyclingbins)
  7. 15% of the UK’s annual national waste footprint is WfH, while 59% is from construction, demolition and excavations. (Defra)
  8. The UK generated 43.9 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste in 2018. (ONS)
  9. You could fill the UK’s largest lake with rubbish in just eight months. (Recycling-guide.org.uk)
  10. The yearly household waste weighs the same as around 260 large cruise ships. (Recyclingbins)
  11. The 2020 recycling rate decreased all across the UK, except in Wales. (GOV.uk)
  12. An average person throws away around 400 kilograms of waste annually. (Recyclingbins)
  13. The trash a single person throws away weighs seven times the average body weight. (Recyclingbins)
  14. Waste sorting facilities rejected 525,000 tonnes of household recycling in 2020. (The LGA)
  15. 85% of households contaminate recycling bins with drinking glasses, toothpaste tubes and plastic film lids. (WRAP)
  16. 55% of Brits place items that could be recycled into general rubbish bins, including foil, aerosols, and plastic detergent bottles. (WRAP)
  17. There were 3,536 waste recovery facilities in the UK in 2018, excluding energy recovery facilities. (ONS)
  18. England generates 85% of the UK’s commercial and industrial waste. (ONS)
  19. The UK Government wants to recycle 50% of all household waste by 2030. (Recyclingbins)

Regional Recycling Statistics

  1. Wales recycles around 57% of its waste, Northern Ireland 46%, England 44% and Scotland 43%. (Recyclingbins)
  2. The highest recycling rate in England in 2021 was the South West with a rate of 48.7%. (Statista)
  3. London fared the worst in 2021, with a recycling rate of just 33%. (Statista)
  4. People in Yorkshire and the Humber are least likely to wash their recyclables. (Meanwell Packaging)
  5. In 2021, local authorities in England dealt with 1.13 million fly-tipping incidents, an increase of 16% from 2020. (ONS)
  6. In 2021, 13 of the 22 local authorities in Wales improved their recycling rates. (The Welsh Government)
  7. Belfast had the best waste recycling record in Northern Ireland in 2021. (The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Northern Ireland)
  8. People in Northern Ireland are the most likely to wash their recyclable waste, with 70% saying they do. (Meanwell Packaging)
  9. Scotland’s top waste recycling regions are East Renfrewshire (67.8%) and Angus (59.1%). (SEPA)
  10. The cities most likely to recycle are Swansea, Coventry and Bristol. (Meanwell Packaging)
  11. The cities least likely to recycle are Oxford, Liverpool and Leeds. (Meanwell Packaging)

Plastic, Paper & Glass

  1. The UK recycles around 80% of paper and cardboard, making it the most recycled item. (Statista)
  2. Recycling paper takes 70% less energy than it does to make new paper. (Recyclingbins)
  3. 15% of the money spent on purchases pays for the packaging, and we throw most of it away. (Recyclingbins)
  4. 70% of fibres used to make paper in the UK come from paper collected from recycling. (CPI)
  5. The UK recycles 67% of glass every year. (Statista)
  6. A single glass bottle will save enough energy to power a laptop for 30 minutes. (Recyclingbins)
  7. Glass is 100% recyclable, and it can be used time and again. (Recycling-guide.org.uk)
  8. 61% of the UK’s plastic waste is exported overseas. (Recoup)
  9. Most of the UK’s plastic is sent to Malaysia, Turkey and Poland after China banned imported plastic waste in 2018. (BBC)
  10. Five recycled plastic bottles create enough insulating fibre to fill a ski jacket. (Recyclingbins)
  11. It takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled materials than from scratch. (WRAP)
  12. Cigarette filters are the most significant contributor to single-plastic use in the UK, with 45.8 billion consumed in 2018. (Finder)

Metals & Electronics

  1. Metal is the second most recycled material in the UK. (Statista)
  2. The UK recycles over 2.5 billion cans annually. (Statista)
  3. If the UK recycled all cans, we could have 14 million fewer bins. (Recycling-guide.org.uk)
  4. Recycling a single aluminium can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours. (Recyclingbins)
  5. The UK generated 23.9 kilograms of e-waste (wasted electronics and electrical) per capita in 2019, which is the world’s second most e-waste per capita. (Global E-Waste Monitor Report)
  6. UK households throw away 155,000 tonnes of domestic electrical waste annually, hoarding nearly 20 small old electrical items per household. (Recycle-more.co.uk)
  7. The electrical cables stashed in UK homes could circulate the earth five times. (Recycle-more.co.uk)
  8. Switching to an electric car and ditching long-haul flights could cut around two tonnes of CO2 per year per person, compared to 0.1 tonnes saved by recycling. (Leeds University)
  9. Most of the two million TV sets thrown away each year end up in a landfill. (Recyclingbins)
  10. The UK recycles 27% of batteries, creating over 20,000 tonnes of battery waste in landfills. (Recyclingbins)
  11. A finished battery produces 50 times less energy than you need to use to create a new one. (Recyclingbins)
  12. Between April 2019 and March 2020, ‘zombie’ batteries started nearly 260 fires in recycling and waste management facilities. (Recycle-more.co.uk)
  13. The UK could reuse up to four tonnes of mercury by recycling fluorescent tubes. (Recyclingbins)
  14. On average, every tonne of recycled steel saves 1.67 tonnes of CO2. (org.uk)

Food & Clothing

  1. UK households could compost 50% of the food waste thrown in the bin. (Recyclingbins)
  2. In 2020, 485,000 tonnes of food waste were sent for recycling. (Defra)
  3. Recycled food waste increased by 11% from 2019. (Defra)
  4. Edible household food waste creates as much greenhouse gas as flying from London to Perth over 4.5 million times. (WRAP)
  5. In total, food waste generates 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. (Which)
  6. Since 2007, UK’s food waste has decreased by 15%. (The House of Lords)
  7. In the UK, 1.3 million tonnes of recycled food waste generates enough electricity to power 200,000 homes. (Which)
  8. The most confusing recyclable item for Brits seems to be polystyrene, with 49,200 searches a year. (Meanwell Packaging)
  9. The UK has the highest consumption of new clothing in Europe, with the average person buying 26.7kg of new clothing annually. (Recycle-more.co.uk)
  10. 54% of UK textile waste ends up in landfills, with only 9% recycled. (The Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
  11. Buying one item made from recycled wool annually would save 371 million gallons of water, 480 tonnes of chemical dyes and 4571 million days of an average family’s electricity needs.(WRAP)

Recycling Cost

  1. The public sector expenditure on waste management was £8.32 billion in 2019. (Finder)
  2. Every tonne of waste collected from household recycling that can’t be recycled costs an extra £93 to dispose of, equating to £48 million annually. (The LGA)
  3. Recycling creates six times as many jobs as landfill and incineration. (Cut Plastic Sheeting)
  4. Businesses spend 4-5% of their turnover on waste disposal. (Biffa)
  5. Between 2015 and 2020, food waste prevention initiatives saved £1 billion worth of food from going to waste (320,000 tonnes). (WRAP)
  6. The average UK household contains around £1,200 worth of electrical and electronic items that combined amount to about £3 billion if recycled. (Recycle-more.co.uk)
  7. Brits spend almost £5 million each week on batteries, but 98% of them are not recycled, ending up in a landfill. (Recycle-more.co.uk)
  8. On average, Brits dispose of 6.1 items incorrectly when sorting household waste. (WRAP)

Recycling Attitudes

  1. 88% of UK households think recycling is an established norm. (WRAP)
  2. 9% of Brits admit to only recycling occasionally, and 3% admit they don’t recycle at all. (WRAP)
  3. In one survey, 36% of UK consumers don’t believe their recycling impacts the environment. (DS Smith)
  4. 18-34s are the age group most likely to recycle. (WRAP)
  5. Households with children aged 0-12 recycle more than those with older children. (WRAP)
  6. Three-quarters admit to checking recycling information, but 76% of people misunderstand what recycling labels mean. (WRAP)
  7. In a survey in 2021, 75% of Brits said they are planning to make more changes to improve their impact on the environment. (Finder)
  8. The most common way Brits are planning to improve their waste consumption is by buying products with less packaging or using less water (50%), using alternative or energy-efficient transport (45%), and ethical and second-hand shopping (42%). (Finder)
  9. 58% of Brits said they are ‘very likely’ to use a waste deposit scheme if it was available, 22% said they’d be ‘likely’ to use one, and 10% said they were ‘unlikely’ or ‘very unlikely’ to use it. (Finder)
  10. 80% of Brits use energy-efficient lightbulbs, and 4 in 5 say they don’t fully fill the kettle when using it for a single hot drink. (Finder)
  11. 45% wash every item they recycle, 35% rinse the majority, and 9% don’t bother washing anything. (Meanwell Packaging)
  12. A third of UK adults say they always check the recycling instructions, 40% say they often do it, and 21% say they sometimes do it. (Meanwell Packaging)
  13. 3% of UK adults say they never check the recycling instruction on the packaging. (Meanwell Packaging)

Global Recycling Statistics

  1. We produce 2.12 billion tonnes of waste every year globally. (Global Recycling Day)
  2. By 2050, the ocean will have more plastic than fish by weight. (The Guardian)
  3. The UK ranks only 17th on the Global Waste Index. (The Global Waste Index)
  4. South Korea is the world’s leading recycling nation, followed by Sweden and Japan. (The Global Waste Index)
  5. Sweden dumps only 1% of trash in landfills, recycling 47% and concreting 52% into energy. (Blue Ocean)
  6. In 2020, Slovenia (75%) and Germany (67%) had the highest municipal solid waste recycling rates among OECD countries. (Statista)
  7. Japan has around 26 certified ‘eco-towns’, and some recycle approximately 80% of all household waste. (BBC)
  8. The US is the largest producer of plastic packaging waste per capita, although China produces the most considerable amount of plastic packaging waste globally. (UNEP)
  9. Europe uses 4-6% of oil and gas to make plastics. (WRAP)
  10. The textile industry contributes around 10% of global greenhouse emissions and 20% of global wastewater production. (Recycle-more.co.uk)
  11. The global average recycling rate for e-waste is just 17.4%. (Global E-Waste Monitor Report)
  12. The world uses 1 to 5 trillion plastic bags every year. (UNEP)

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