Following the recent publication of the 2017 waste recycling data for Europe, you may have already heard we have dropped to 15th place when it comes to waste generated per capita.
At the same time we are mid-range against our fellow Europeans when it comes to recycling and recovery rates and therefore landfill minimisation. The data is based on the performance of the members of the EU plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.
At first glance this is disappointing data. However, measured against the other major economies the UK doesn’t look quite so bad.
AMOUNT TO LANDFILL
Germany, clearly stands out as top in class. Delving deeper, their waste to energy % is comparable with the other member states, yet their recycling rates are 50% higher than the other major economies. What we don’t know is how much of this is dependent on waste export to Poland and how much is as a result of long-term investment in recycling infrastructure over many years.
Whilst we should not be complacent, the UK needs to recognise we have come a long way over the last 20 years in reducing landfill and increasing recycling. With China, as well as other countries, closing their doors to other peoples’ waste and potential challenges post Brexit, it is essential the recycling sector here in the UK invests more in recycling infrastructure for the future.
Some would say too little of the money paid by producer compliance members reaches the recyclers. It is no coincidence that the UK has recently been struggling to keep up with the nation’s recycling targets.
In less politically correct times we were often dubbed the “dirty men of Europe”. We should be proud of what we have achieved in the intervening years. Looking to the future, there is every reason why we could lead the way in providing sustainable and low cost recycling ensuring we move up the league. Work is still to be done by every business and every household. There is no one else to help us.