UK paper recycling rate reaches 78.7%

The UKs paper recycling rate reached 78.7% in 2011, according to the latest figures released by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI).

This represents a 5% increase from 75.1% in 2010 and means the UK has surpassed the target set in the revised European Declaration on Paper Recycling (2011 – 2015) to maintain current high levels in countries where it has already reached levels of above 70%.

The UK's paper recycling rate has increased 5% from 75.1% in 2010 to 78.7% in 2011
The UK’s paper recycling rate has increased 5% from 75.1% in 2010 to 78.7% in 2011

But, the CPI which represents the UKs paper and paper-based industries – sounded a note of caution about the 2011 figures as it said the rise in recycling rate may be attributed more to a decrease in consumption that an increase in the amount of paper being collected.

Stuart Pohler, CPI recovered paper sector manager, said: Whilst the increase in the recycling rate is welcomed in principle, it is important to qualify the apparent performance improvement. UK collection of used recovered paper in 2011 was just over 8 million tonnes – an increase of 0.4% on 2010 – whereas consumption of paper and board products which entered the UK waste stream reduced by 4.2% compared to 2010.

With lower volumes available for collection, and only a modest increase in tonnage collected for recycling from existing sources, ensuring recycling performance is maintained in future will mean additional sources will be required. This will have a significant knock-on effect for cost and quality control for collectors, and may become increasingly difficult if demand from global paper mills falls; further suppressing collectors income.


The CPI explained that the latest figures did not tally with those reported in 2010 because it has since changed the way it calculated them bringing them in line with the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) guidelines.

In its Annual Review 2010 the CPI reported a paper recycling rate of 65% (see story). This figure was calculated by comparing the amount that was recycled with the amount of material placed on the market, including goods that were imported.

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However the CPI said that only limited data exists regarding the amount of paper packaging from imported goods meaning the figures were unreliable and therefore not used in the 2011 calculations. This means that the 2011 figures only represent the percentage of paper recycled that was placed on the market by domestic producers.

Mr Pohler told The figures werent deemed reliable so what we have done is revert back to the CEPI for explaining the recycling rates. We changed our formula which is why there is a discrepancy.


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