Whilst it is difficult to compare countries against each other in terms of recycling, a recent report produced by environmental consultants, Eunomia shows a clear world top 10 for recycling.
As each country handles waste in differing ways, such as Sweden’s policy to incinerate recyclable waste to create a form of energy recovery, this creates difficulties in analysing data. Sweden would hit the world’s top five if they did not adopt this unusual policy which is not considered a ‘general’ form of recycling by Eunomia – they therefore miss out on the top ten altogether.
Germany currently sits at the top of the world recycling table, with neighbours Austria a close second. Europe dominates the top ten with only Asian countries South Korea and Singapore joining the top ranks.
Germany has recycled at a high but steady level for the past two decades but the predictions are they now face big competition from Wales for the top spot throughout 2018. Wales has seen a rapid incline in recycling rates over the last few years and it shows no signs of stopping with a government that is wholly committed to recycling. Wales implemented the 5p plastic bag charge sometime before the UK who is some way behind its close neighbours in the recycling charts.
One of the more surprising countries is the USA all the way down in 25th place. For arguably the most developed country in the world, this is a poor position to be in.
Every country recycles differently so it is difficult to compare countries like for like. For example Singapore and Wales recycle lots of non-household waste such as rubble and Germany has the highest worldwide rate for recycling household waste. These involve very different materials which are recycled in very alternate ways but both still come under the bracket of general recycling.
Let’s concentrate some more on the number one recyclers, Germany. It would seem strong government policy on recycling has educated its citizens into recycling as much as possible. This combination means they are always on to a winner. Colour coded bins are a way of life in Germany and its residents are in a solid habit of segregating waste into each bin.
Compare this with UK and USA household recycling and it seems miles ahead at the moment. Both countries are still heavily reliant on general waste bins, which arguably encourages a lazy attitude from its citizens. Local councils provide UK households with recycling boxes and food waste bins but very little thought has been put into them and the chances are residents will only be committed to segregating everything if they have strong personal beliefs on the topic of recycling.
With China’s recent plastic ban it is now more important than ever for governments to do more to encourage recycling. Germany’s success took years to achieve but it has paid off with a very high level of recycling. It is time equally developed countries like the UK and USA took a similar path. One way to help achieve this could be by increasing the use of waste compactors for commercial and residential use, which can greatly reduce waste as well as costs.