DS Smith warns of 18% drop in paper recycling rate by 2030

DS Smith has warned today (9 November) that the UK’s recycling rate for paper and cardboard recycling could fall by 18% by 2030, without the separate collection of paper and card. 

DS Smith said e-commerce will drive packaging volume but recycling is 'lagging'

In research entitled ‘Wasted Paper: A Path To Better Recycling’, DS Smith outlined that despite being the third-largest producer of paper and cardboard waste in Europe, the UK ranks 25th out of 30 European nations for recycling.

In 2020, just 74% of paper and cardboard were recycled in the UK, compared to the European average of 82%. DS Smith predicts that this figure could plummet to 56% by 2030.

To reverse the decline of recycling rates, DS Smith’s report underlines the need for separate collections of paper and card, a uniform recycling system across the country, as well as better labelling and consumer education.

A survey from DS Smith also revealed that recycling is at risk of “falling out of fashion” with younger people. Seven in ten (71%) 18–24-year-olds recycle almost all of their paper and card, compared to more than nine in ten (92%) over 65s.

Across all ages, there’s limited trust in the recycling process, as less than two thirds (66%) of Brits are confident the paper and card they put in their bin is processed correctly by the authorities.


John Melia, strategy development and innovation director for recycling at DS Smith commented: “To revitalise recycling, we should learn from the proven, effective approaches of other UK and European nations who are reaping the benefits of well-structured recycling systems

“Poor recycling in the UK rates not only compromise the environment, they stand in the way of realising a big economic opportunity – we can all agree that leaving £2.8bn on the table is madness when there’s a thriving industry ready to receive the material and put it to good use, supporting thousands of jobs and creating value for the economy in a circular way.”


According to the study this decline in sustainable and recyclable packaging could result in a loss of 17.3 million tonnes of materials, valued at £2.8 billion.

The UK’s recycling rates have been on a downward trajectory for the past five years, coinciding with the growth of online shopping, DS Smith outlined. It estimated that the increasing consumer demand for online shopping will lead to an annual generation of 6.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard packaging waste by the end of this decade.

These revelations mean that the UK is on track to miss its long-term recycling targets by up to 13 years. The country has already failed to meet the 2020 recycling rate target of 50% set by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and is likely to fall short of the 2025 (55%) and 2030 (65%) targets.

To find out more please visit the Collection Conference, taking place on 15 November, to book your ticket please click here.

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