1 March 2012

UK edges up European recycling league table

By Will Date

The UK edged upwards in the European Union recycling league table during 2010 despite sending a large proportion of its waste to landfill, according to the latest European waste statistics.

The UK has shown signs of slight improvement in waste data published by the EU for 2010

The UK has shown signs of slight improvement in waste data published by the EU for 2010

Provisional figures for municipal waste in 2010 have been published by the EU statistical body Eurostat.Thesesuggest the UKreached a recycling rate of 24% per head in 2010 and with a composting rate of 14% the total rate stands at around 39%.The UKalso overtook Norway to become the eleventh best recycler per capita throughout the Union.

The statistics show the UK recycled 129kg of waste per head, a small increase from the 2009 total of 128kg and enough to keep it above the Europe-wide average of 121kg.

However, the Eurostat figures still highlight the UKs reliance on landfill in comparison to other EU member states, although this does appear to be declining with the statistics showing that while a total of 259kg per capita was landfilled in the UK in 2009, the amount dropped to 255kg in 2010.

Meanwhile, the data published for composting suggests that the UK performed slightly above the EU average, composting around 73kg per capita, compared to the EU average of 72kg.

“In the UK there is a decrease in the proportion of waste that is going to landfill, which is good, but this is still a high proportion of the total waste.”

European Commission

Waste generated

Throughout 2010, Eurostat estimates that the UK generated 521kg of waste per capita, which continues to be slightly higher than the EU average of 503kg.However, the figure does suggest that the amount of waste generated for each person is continuing to fall when compared to the 2009 tally which stood at 529kg and overallwaste arisingsacross the EU appear to have fallen.

Speaking to letsrecycle.com, a European Commission spokesman noted that this could fall could in part be due to the economic climate,although the overall picture appeared to be positive.

He said: Seventeen of the member states have made a decrease in the overall amount of waste generated. While this could be related to member states putting more effort into prevention of waste, it should also be linked to the economic crisis which is causing people to consume less.

And, the spokesman explainedthat while some of the newer member states had made good progress in getting up to speed with EU waste requirements, the progress of some of the more established nations appeared to show signs that it is beginning to slow.

We have seen some positive signals from a number of the new member states, as well as some of the eastern European member states, who are increasing recycling rates relatively rapidly, faster than the older member states. We are asking them to do what the older states did in a shorter time period, but we can see a clear impact that joining the EU has had on these states, and it is encouraging to see them take that seriously.”

He continued: Among the top member states you can see the progress is relatively modest and more limited. Some states have reached a plateau and need to make a little more progress.


The spokesman admitted that the European Commission was slightly concerned that an over-reliance on incineration could lead to some recyclable material being burned and called on the UK to ensure that recycling and reuse remain the priority for waste treatment. Currently the UK incinerates less waste than the average EU member state, around 60kg per capita compared to the average of 108kg, while nations such as Sweden (226kg) and Denmark (365kg) burn significantly more.

The big challenge is to reduce the amount of waste that is sent for incineration, which could be recycled instead,” the spokesmanremarked. “In the UK there is a decrease in the proportion of waste that is going to landfill, which is good, but this is still a high proportion of the total waste.

Related Links

Eurostat waste data

To solve this, the UK should look to reuse and recycling and not to over capacity of incineration, countries like Denmark and Switzerland are burning much more than they should and thats not good. There is an opportunity for the UK to take positively; I hope they will move in the right direction.

Some of thestatistics arebased on estimates compiled by Eurostat, and could be subject to revision once final data has been submitted by member states.

The table below shows the Eurostat data for each EU member state, listed by country rate of municipal waste generated per person. Percentages calculated by letsrecycle.com.

European UnionMunicipal Waste Statistics 2010

Municipal waste generated (kg per person)Landfilled (%)Incinerated (%)Recycled (%)Composted (%)
United Kingdom*52149122514
EU average50337212414
Czech Rep.3176515142

*Denotes dataestimated by Eurostat


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