A4.12.1 Recycling


It is not sustainable to create products and dispose of them. Recycling enables valuable raw materials to be used again and again. This not only reduces the use of raw materials , but can have associated benefits. For example, Recycling aluminium requires only 5% of the energy it takes to make new aluminium, and produces only 5% of the CO2 emissions.

However, recycling rates are not as high as they should be. The Guardian reported at the end of 2011 that “the UK produces more household waste per head of population than many of its European neighbours, with an average of 449kg per year, compared to 406kg for the European average”.

The UK produces approximately about 4.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year. Most of this waste arises from packaging. The UK has a plastics recycling rate of only 3%. In Germany the recycling rate for plastic is 70%.

There are several barriers against recycling. The markets for recyclate are unstable economically. The Telegraph reported in December 2008 that up to 15% of all recycled materials collected were being stored in warehouses waiting for a buyer, whilst the price of recycled cans had fallen from £200 to £20 per tonne.

Collecting the recyclate is not straightforward. Household recycling rates in the UK are low compared to other parts of Europe. Kerbside collections generally have a higher participation than bring sites (e.g. bottle banks), but they cost Councils more to implement.

There are misconceptions that the quality of a material is adversely affected if it is made from recycled materials. This is particularly notable in the construction industry where the use of recycled aggregates is hindered by fears (by Highways in Local Council) of the low quality of the material.

If a market does not exist for recycled products it is not economical to produce them. It is important that as part of an overall environmental management strategy, the role of purchasing is incorporated (such as policies to only purchase recycled paper).

As demand for recycled materials increases, technology will be developed and improved to meet the demands. In turn, this will produce better quality products, produced in a more efficient way.

In November 2014 the Guardian reported that recycling rates in the UK have stalled, rising only 0.1% on the previous year:


A4.12.1 Recycling-chart

 Source: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/18/recycling-rates-in-england-have-stalled


Various waste statistics for the UK are available here: