Recycling in the UK

Nowadays, more and more people are becoming involved in the effort of reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfill, even at a minimal level. This growing trend has generated a need for organised recycling schemes, a larger number of recycling facilities as well as Government programs which further motivate people to recycle and reduce energy consumption.

The past ten years have brought an astounding increase in household recycling (at the moment, 40% of all household waste is being recycled, which is a 29% increase compared to the beginning of last decade, yet still lower than the average recycling rate in the European Union, which overrides the UK rate by 15%). The targets set for the next few years are quite high yet not impossible to achieve, with enough perseverance.Recycling in the UK


Before any item is actually broken down into its composing materials, it should be used to its full potential. There are many charities across the UK which accept donations in the form of unwanted goods, provided that they are in a satisfactory condition. Sometimes, these items are put up for sale and all revenues put towards the particular causes charities represent.

Another course of action is to collect essentials such as furniture, building materials or household appliances and distribute them to people who are facing a considerable financial struggle and lack these basic items. That is a commendable initiative considering the fact that what clutters up one person’s home could greatly improve another person’s living standard.

Using less energy

A number of environmentally friendly products are currently being promoted, in hopes that they will partially or totally replace less efficient variations. Whether the product in question is a simple light bulb or an indispensable boiler, efforts are being made to adapt electronics to present day energy saving requirements.

Great progress has been made with certain household appliances such as refrigerators in creating more energy-efficient prototypes. A media campaign has also been progressing in convincing people to change some of their energy consumption related habits and replace negligence with attentiveness.

Conflicting interests

Part of the strategy proposed by environmental campaigners and backed by the Government is, aside from recycling, encouraging a reduced consumption rate as well, by reusing certain items previously regarded as disposable and by advocating responsible shopping. Whilst this makes sense, it is at odds with an economy based on consumerism and with corporate interests, which have been known to prevail worldwide in any moral dispute.

While the media is being used as a conveyor of indications and encouragements towards practicality, it is simultaneously being used by corporations to promote their goal, which is maintaining the population into a state of ceaseless acquisition of new goods. Nonetheless, corporations do have a vested interest in recycling as well, namely in purchasing recycled materials to use towards manufacturing new products. Using recycled materials is cost effective as their reprocessing is simpler than processing raw materials.

Government initiatives

Over the last few years, the Government has visibly made a priority out of this issue. A few lucrative plans have been put forward, such as the ‘Green Boiler’ initiative, which offers a monetary incentive to people with old boilers towards recycling them and purchasing energy efficient ones.

The waste situation is constantly being evaluated and new legislation is being prepared, aiming for a more proficient regulation of what can be sent to landfill (and most importantly, what can no longer be sent there), in order to drastically reduce the amount of waste. The ultimate aim is attaining a ‘0 waste society’, which would obviously involve finding a way to reuse or recycle any item or material.

For the time being though, a waste strategy was elaborated and targets were set in order to reduce wastegradually. An official stance was also taken to criticise overzealous local authorities, which fine regular households for unintentional mistakes such as putting the bins out for collection the wrong day or placing a recyclable item in the wrong bin.

Ridiculed by the media as the ‘’bin police’’, quite a few councils have been the object of public disdain after an Orwellian type of behaviour. Obviously, a more reasonable attitude is preferable, as the above-mentioned will never generate a positive response from the general population. A better collaboration between individuals and local authorities is essential for the targets to be reached.

The food recycling program

The common perspective on recycling is that only non-perishable items are eligible. So far, that has actually been the case, yet nowadays a new initiative is being put into practice in Wales – food recycling. The program had first been tested at a primary school and had produced commendable results.

Certain local councils have provided residents with special bins for depositing kitchen waste, which includes food wrappings and other paper based products – basically, any item which is suitable for mixing into compost. The waste is placed into compostable bin liners. It is then transported to a reprocessing facility and turned into compost.

This program is likely to be extended to other parts of the UK in the near future. It is certainly a step forward as kitchen waste, when sent to landfill, emits substantial amounts of methane gas (which is a pollutant) during its decomposition process.

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Did You Know?

spacer According to Defra, each person in England produced an average of 457 Kilograms of waste in 2009-10. Of this, an average of about 181 Kilograms per person was recycled. That left 60% of un-recycled waste, at an average of 276 kilograms per person.

From Protect Our Environment