UK remains mid-table in EU recycling league

By Will Date

The UK retained its mid-table ranking in Europe for the recycling of municipal waste in 2011, data published by the European Commission has shown.

The provisional figures published last week by the EU statistical body Eurostat, show that the UK achieved a 25% dry recycling rate per head, up from 24% in 2010, but as much as 49% of municipal waste was still sent to landfill. This means that the UK is the 10th best recycler in the EU.

The UK has remained relatively static in its position in the municipal waste table for 2011
The UK has remained relatively static in its position in the municipal waste table for 2011

However, commenting on the figures, a spokesman for the European Commission said that the UK was faring badly when compared with other EU Member States who have been in the EU since 2004, with the UK having the 12th highest landfill rate out of the 15 countries.

And, he added that as many as 85,000 additional jobs could be created in the UK in the waste and recycling sector if the UK became more aligned to the top six performing Member States in sending less waste to landfill.

The Commission can only encourage UK to not miss these opportunities linked with improved waste management, he said.

The figures show that the UKs recycling rate of 25% per head in 2011 (128kg per head) represented a small drop from the 2010 total of 129kg, but was enough to keep it above the Europe-wide average of 122kg per capita.

Landfill

They also highlight a decline in the amount of waste being deposited to landfill, with an average of 253kg per capita going to landfill in 2011, down from 255kg the previous year and around 473kg a decade earlier in 2001. Overall this means sent around 49% of its municipal waste to landfill in 2011.

Meanwhile, the data shows that the UK is an average performer for composting, as it composts around 73kg per capita, equal to the average rate composted across the whole of the EU.

The Commission spokesman said that while the data appeared to be favourable overall for the EU, it did show that a plateau had been reached by some of the older Member States and that the focus needed to shift to reuse, recycling and waste prevention as an alternative to incineration.

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Eurostat waste data

He said: It seems that for some Member states a kind of plateau has been met in terms of recycling. For the more advanced Member States already landfilling less than 5% of their municipal waste, the next challenge will be increasing their efforts on prevention and on reuse and recycling: waste generation can be reduced (for instance by reducing food wastage) and more waste can be recycled or reused in place of being sent to incinerators. Nevertheless, the margin for progress remains higher in the other Member States particularly those with high landfill rates.

Some of the statistics are based on estimates compiled by Eurostat, and could be subject to revision once final data has been submitted by Member States.

European Union Municipal Waste Statistics 2011

Waste generated

(Kg per capita)

Landfill

%

Recycling

%

Incineration

%

Composting

%

EU Average 503 36% 24% 22% 15%
Denmark 718 3% 31% 54% 12%
Luxembourg 687 15% 27% 38% 20%
Cyprus 658 80% 11% 0% 9%
Ireland 623 49% 33% 4% 3%
Germany 597 1% 45% 37% 17%
Netherlands 596 1% 27% 32% 24%
Malta 583 84% 6% 1% 0%
Austria 552 3% 27% 33% 32%
Italy 535 46% 20% 16% 12%
Spain 531 58% 15% 9% 18%
France 527 28% 19% 35% 18%
United Kingdom 518 49% 25% 12% 14%
Finland 505 40% 22% 25% 13%
Greece 496 82% 15% 0% 3%
Portugal 487 59% 11% 21% 8%
Belgium 464 1% 36% 42% 20%
Sweden 460 1% 33% 52% 15%
Lithuania 442 77% 18% 0% 2%
Slovenia 411 50% 29% 1% 5%
Hungary 382 67% 17% 11% 5%
Bulgaria 375 93% 3% 0% 3%
Romania 365 79% 1% 0% 0%
Latvia 350 74% 9% 0% 1%
Slovakia 327 75% 4% 10% 6%
Czech Republic 320 64% 15% 18% 2%
Poland 315 57% 9% 1% 14%
Estonia 298 60% 17% 0% 9%

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