Recycle Week is an event that happens each year to encourage recycling across the UK.
Started by Recycle Now in 2004, we are now celebrating Recycle Week’s 19th year. The event will be celebrated from Monday 17th October – Sunday 23rd October, a month later than originally scheduled to avoid conflicting with national mourning.
Each year, the Recycle Week theme changes. This year’s theme is:
Let’s get real about recycling
An excerpt from Recycle Now’s manifesto for this year’s event reads:
“This Recycle Week, we’re getting real. About where we are. Where we want to be. And how we’re all going to get there, together”.
Recycling rates in the UK vary – 41% in Scotland, 44% in England, 49.1% in Northern Ireland and 56.5% in Wales. But what does this mean?
What is the recycling rate?
The recycling rate is the percentage of materials recycled out of the country’s total waste collected from businesses and households.
What affects the recycling rate?
Many things can affect a country’s recycling rates. While recycling rates across the UK are higher than many of our European neighbours, we still have room for improvement. However, not all hope is lost. There are plenty of solutions and things we can all do to recycle more.
Some councils do not collect food waste and not everyone has the luxury of a garden or balcony where they can have their own compost bin. So, rather than this waste being turned into compost, it just goes to landfill. In the Government’s Environment Bill, there are plans to roll out food waste collections to all UK households by 2023. As more councils issue food waste bins, this should improve recycling rates, which include compost. This video by Recycle Now shows how food waste is recycled by councils.
Similar to the above, green waste can also end up in landfill. Many councils charge an annual fee to have a green waste bin, and, understandably, paying this fee may not be a priority to families or individuals on a budget. People are, however, usually able to drop green waste off at local recycling centres for free, and for commercial garden waste, there is usually a small fee. Rather than putting hedge trimmings and other garden waste in your household bins, it could be worth a trip to your local recycling centre. Just make sure to check your local council’s website to see what you can and can’t drop off.
Another factor that affects recycling rates is contamination. While we would all hope that everything we put out for recycling each fortnight gets recycled, this often isn’t the case. Items that are contaminated with food or non-recyclable materials can make an entire lorry load of recycling un-recyclable. That’s why it’s so important to make sure we wash all of the recyclable containers we use and double-check whether items are recyclable when popping them into the recycling bin. You don’t want to be the neighbour that ruins everyone’s efforts to be green and recycle!
In October 2021, WRAP interviewed 4,330 UK adults with the responsibility of dealing with rubbish and recycling at home.
85% of those surveyed said they regularly recycle, which is a significant majority. That does mean, however, that 15% of people said they only recycle occasionally or never/rarely. If you’re keen on recycling, you may find this quite shocking!
If we all recycled a bit more and took just a few seconds to check whether items are recyclable, we could collectively divert an enormous amount of recyclable waste from landfill.
Many materials can’t be recycled
Another reason why recycling rates are so low in comparison to the full waste picture is that the UK produces an enormous amount of non-recyclable waste.
While the onus should be on manufacturers to produce greener products and packaging, we, as consumers, do speak with our wallets. Choosing products and suppliers with robust green credentials is one of the best ways we can put pressure on businesses to step up their game in terms of sustainability.
At Shred Station, we recycle 100% of the paper we shred at UK mills. In 2021, this meant 55,000 tonnes of our customers’ shredded paper was made into new products such as toilet tissues, sanitary products and much more. For all other materials, we have a strict Zero to Landfill policy, and we have been CarbonNeutral® certified since January 2019.
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