B3.1 Waste Generation in the UK


The UK produces more than 434 million tonnes of waste every year. This rate of rubbish generation would fill the Albert Hall in London in less than 2 hours.


Within the European Union, it is estimated that 2 billion tonnes of waste is produced. This figure is rising.

According to the Environment Agency, England produces about 220 million tonnes of controlled waste per year, but only reuses or recycles a fraction of this. The percentage of household waste that is recycled increased from 17.8% in 2003/04 to 22.5% in 2004/05 and to 37% in 20008/09. Fly tipping is on the increase, costing £100-£150 million every year to investigate and clear up.


According to DEFRA

  • Local authorities dealt with a total of 900 thousand incidents of fly-tipping in 2014/15, an increase of 5.6 per cent since 2013/14 with nearly two thirds of flytips involving household waste.
  • The trend in incidents of fly-tipping had been downward until 2013/14 when there was an increase to 852 thousand incidents. The number of fly-tipping incidents increased again in 2014/15 to 900 thousand incidents. Care should be taken when interpreting this increase. This may reflect both improvements to the capture of fly-tipping incidents as well as genuine increases in the number of incidents.
  • The most common place for fly-tipping to occur was on highways which accounted for 48 per cent of total incidents in 2014/15.
  • Incidents of fly-tipping on footpaths, bridleways and back alleyways increased by 3.2 per cent in England in 2014/15. Together these now account for 28 per cent of fly-tipping incidents.
  • Nearly a third of all incidents consisted of a quantity of material equivalent to a ‘small van load’. The second largest size category for fly-tipping incidents was ‘car boot’ and accounted for nearly 30 per cent of total incidents.
  • The estimated cost of clearance of fly-tipping to local authorities in England in 2014/15 was nearly £50 million, an 11 per cent increase on 2013/14.
  • Local authorities carried out nearly 515 thousand enforcement actions at an estimated cost of £17.6 million in 2014/15, a £0.3 million increase on the previous year. This equated to an increase of 3.1 per cent on enforcement actions in the same period.

Source: DEFRA © Crown Copyright


B3.1 Fig 1.1 Waste Data


B3.1 Fig 1.2 Recycling Rate

B3.1 waste generation pie chart

B3.1 Fig 5.2 Waste Data





B3.1 Destiny of waste graph

According to DEFRA:

  • Total waste generated by households fell by 2 per cent from 22.1 million tonnes in 2010 to 21.6 million tonnes in 2013. This amounted to 403 kg per person in 2013.

DEFRA produce an annual review on the UK waste strategy. If you are interested in viewing this report, which also includes statistics on waste management, it is available here:

B3.1 – DEFRA Waste Strategy Report 08_09

B3.1 – DEFRA Waste Strategy Report 07_08       B3.1 – DEFRA Waste Strategy Report 07_08 Annexes



DEFRA published the “Digest of Waste and Resource Statistics – 2015 Edition” in January 2015, which is available here:  Digest_of_waste_England_-_finalv2

According to DEFRA (in a review of 2010-2012 waste statistics, published March 2015):

  •  The UK recycling rate of ‘waste from households’ reached 43.9 per cent in 2012, rising from 42.9 per cent in 2011. There is an EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50 per cent by 2020.
  • The UK Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW) sent to landfill has continued to reduce and in 2012 was 10.3 million tonnes. This represents 29 per cent of the 1995 baseline value. There is an EU target to contain BMW to landfill to within 50 per cent of the 1995 baseline by 2013 and 35 per cent by 2020. The 2010 target was comfortably met.
  • The recovery rate from non-hazardous construction and demolition waste in the UK in 2012 was 86.5%. There is an EU target for the UK to recover at least 70 per cent of this type of waste by 2020.
  • The UK generated 200.0 million tonnes of total waste in 2012. Half of this (50%) was generated by Construction. Commercial & Industrial activities generated almost a quarter (24%), with households responsible for a further 14%.
  • Almost half (50.0%) of the 186.2 million tonnes of total waste that entered final treatment in the UK in 2012 was recovered. The proportion that went to landfill was 26.1%.
  • In 2012, 69.1% of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered. The 2012 EU target was for the UK to recycle or recover at least 60 per cent of packaging waste.

© Crown Copyright


8 millions tonnes recycled … 335 million tonnes produced.