Revealed: The UK’s Recycling Habits And Why We Need To Do More

The UK is currently behind on the EU’s minimum recycling target of 50 per cent by 2020, at 44-46 per cent, according to a report from Friends of the Earth.  In fact, the UK produces over 15 million tonnes of household rubbish which is subsequently sent to landfill, every year.

However, according to the House of Commons, Wales is the only nation to currently meet this target, reportedly recycling over 60 per cent, with the rest of the UK’s household recycling rates between 44-46 per cent.

Despite this, as per WRAP’s latest statistics, over half of all Welsh households fail to recycle one or more items that are locally recycled. Followed closely by England at 54 per cent and Northern Ireland with 62 per cent of households missing the opportunity to deposit all recyclable goods.

As a result, analysed the findings within WRAP’s report ‘Recycling Tracking Survey 2018 Behaviours, attitudes and awareness around recycling* to illustrate the items homeowners are throwing away when in fact it could be recycled. And the results might shock you!

The nation’s recycling habits

Interestingly, over half of UK households put at least one item, perhaps knowingly, in the general rubbish. This is regardless of it being locally collected for recycling. Whilst a further 76 per cent place one or more items in the wrong bin which cannot be recycled by their local authority.

Recycle Zone revealed from their analysis that foil is the most commonly thrown in the general bin by a quarter of UK households (25 per cent) regardless of it being recycled. Other prominent items UK households’ chuck into the general waste, despite being recyclable include; aerosols, clear plastic trays, plastic cleaners, plastic toiletries, tetra-pak, plastic pots, plastic tubs, cans, paper and plastic drinks bottles.

Bad excuses?

However, perhaps more shocking, are the reasons stated for individuals not recycling an item, although it is locally collected. Just under a third claim “I’m not convinced everything actually gets recycled by the council.” While a further 20 per cent of households admitting that if the packaging says to ‘check locally if it can be recycled’ they “can’t be bothered” to follow through and find out.

And perhaps unsurprisingly given the ‘great British weather’, 13 per cent asserted that the reason they didn’t recycle was due to the fact they “didn’t want to go outside”. With 15 per cent maintaining: “It all gets sorted anyway, so it’s up to the council/recycling plant to take out what they don’t want”.

So, what can we do about it?

Recycle Zone has broken down the types of plastic which can be recycled with the following handy guide:
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) think plastic bottles – Widely recycled.
HDPE (High density polyethylene) think cleaning products – Recyclable, check your local authority.
LDPE (Low density polyethylene) think plastic bags – Recyclable, check your local authority.
PP (Polypropylene) think plastic containers  – Recyclable, check your local authority.
PS (Polystyrene) think yoghurt pots – Not recyclable.
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) think furniture – Not recyclable.

Also, Mark Penny, commercial manager at J&B Recycling, recommends separating all waste when recycling. “Not putting food waste into your recycling is as important as recycling in the first place. It can lead to contamination and other materials being rejected rather than recycled.  To reduce contamination, we advise residents to wash out any food remains and pour away excess liquid, especially in plastic bottles.”