UK in the dark about the benefits of recycling

A quarter of UK residents (26 per cent) fail to see the direct benefit of recycling, according to new figures launched to mark the beginning of Recycle Week, which has been running all week.

The statistics, from national recycling campaign Recycle Now, reveal that more than half the UK population wants to find out more about what their recycling gets used for, while nearly two thirds agree that their recycled items have a value and can be sold to make new products.

While the figures demonstrate a lack of awareness about the direct benefits of recycling, encouragingly 82 per cent of the population believes that recycling does make a difference in some way, and just 5 per cent claim not to recycle in any way. 

In the UK, 44 per cent of all plastic bottles and 40 per cent of glass packaging from our homes is not recycled. Similarly, a staggering 400,000 tonnes of card was not collected for recycling in 2015, which is the same weight as 2,000 blue whales. 

Recycle Week’s 2017 campaign, ‘Recycling – It’s Worth It’, aims to show people how items they recycle acquire a new purpose, whether in the form of everyday products or packaging used in homes, energy to power communities or compost to nurture the growth of new foods.  

A consumer poll by Recycle Now has revealed that many aren’t aware of what their recycling could come back as, for example:

  • More than four in five people were unaware that empty aerosol cans could come back as part of their mobile phone.

  • Two thirds of people don't realise plastic bottles can be turned into football shirts.

  • Two thirds don’t believe recycling glass jars can save electricity.

  • Two thirds don’t believe shampoo bottles could come back in a children’s outdoor playset.

  • While homes in the UK recycle the vast majority of their paper and card, surprisingly over half of people don’t believe that a cardboard toothpaste box can be turned into a sweetie box. In reality, recycled cardboard appears in many new items for sale on shelves across the UK.

Linda Crichton, Head of Recycle Now, said: “We know that understanding the recycling process motivates people to recycle. Our aim this Recycle Week is for more people to find out that their deodorant could come back in a mobile phone, or their sweetie box as a toothpaste box - and as a result, be encouraged to recycle more because they can see it’s worth it.”

Why is recycling important? 

Ultimately, recycling items into new things leads to reduced levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere which contribute to climate change. Making an item from recycled plastic takes 75 per cent less energy than making it from scratch; while making an item from recycled metal uses 95 per cent less energy. 

Recycling also reduces the amount of waste that is sent for disposal; last year our recycling efforts prevented nearly 12 million tonnes of waste from being disposed of across the UK. 

Linda Crichton continued: “Every little helps and recycling one more thing can have a big impact. For instance, nearly half the plastic bottles we use are not put in the recycling - which means the number of plastic bottles evading recycling could reach 29 billion over the four years up to the end of 2020.”

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey, added: “Recycle Week is an excellent reminder of the big difference we can all make to protect our environment by disposing of our rubbish responsibly. 

“Through new initiatives from WRAP and industry, we are making it even easier for householders to recycle as much as possible.”

Find out more about Recycle Week 2017.

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