Waste in the UK

Did you know, British households dispose of around 22 million tons of waste into the bin each year. Rates of recycling have also decreased to around 44%, although the target set is at 50% by 2020.

Maybe the issue lies within the current system in Britain, particularly when shining a light on how we recycle our own plastic waste, as large quantities are actually shipped off to other countries.

In 2002, the amount of waste the UK transports abroad, to countries including Malaysia, China, Poland and Turkey, has increased by six times the amount – accounting for half of the packaging reported as recycled back in 2017.

Dating back to 2002, the amount of waste transported overseas, to countries such as China, Malaysia, Turkey and Poland, has increased sixfold – representing at least 50% of the packaging reported as recycled in 2017.

Concerns have also been raised over the fact that certain materials were not recycled to UK standard, which is alternatively shifted to landfill and contributing to environmental pollution.

Recycling rates from councils, that serve 14 million households in England alone, have dramatically declined over the past 5 years, according to BBC News analysts.

Surprisingly, only half of local authorities recycled smaller amounts of household waste between 2016-17 compared to proportions in 2011-12. Despite warnings from experts, the UK is on track to miss it’s recycling target, which leaves the question, are actions being taken to secure such success?

The Local Government Association (LGA) declared that “recycling in England had still quadrupled, compared with 10 years ago”.

Between 2011-12, the complete recycling rates for household rubbish in England has actually increased by 0.7%, while most other UK regions have noticed a decline in recycling activities.

Statistics by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, discovered that:


  • From 350 councils, for which there are figures of comparison, 173 had reduced recycling rates in 2016-17 compared with those in 2011-12.
  • A large quantity of regions in England recognised a decrease in household recycling rates, during the same period.
  • Council recycling budgets decreased by 10% – from an astonishing £630 million in 2013-14, to £569 million in 2016-17
  • Council budgets for waste management have also seen cuts by £400 million since 2010-11, plus projected budgeting fell to £4.1 billion in 2016-17.


Read on to discover further compelling facts and statistics, including entire recycling rates for the UK, within the infographic below – provided by No.1 Junk Street

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