With more and more people recycling but with still more to be done, we have created a comprehensive list of the most impressive facts.

Recycling: The Facts 

Overall recycling rates are increasing, but so is our population. More goods are being produced and more natural resources are being used, and many are wasted when we throw things away.

We’ve compiled some of the most astonishing recycling facts; some are alarming, and all of them should make us realise that we need to be more aware of what we are throwing away, if we are going to preserve the planet and its natural resources for future generations.

The State of The Nation: Recycling in The UK

  • The average household in the UK creates over a tonne of waste each year, which is about the weight of a small car.
  • Every year, the waste we produce increases by about 3%, which sounds insignificant, but it means that in 25 years, the amount of waste we produce will have doubled.
  • The average person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every 7 weeks!
  • Every year, 18 million tonnes of waste is sent to a UK landfill site.
  • Other countries recycle a lot more than we do. Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany recycle around 60% of their waste, compared with our rate of around 45%.

The resources we waste

These facts might make you think twice about what you throw away:

  • 1 recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.
  • But if you recycled absolutely everything you could in your bin, you could power a TV for 5000 hours, plenty of time to get those boxsets in!
  • 1 recycled glass bottle will save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
  • 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a light bulb for 3 hours.
  • 70% less energy is needed to recycle paper as opposed to making it from raw materials.
  • Researchers says that up to 80% of the things we throw away could be easily recycled or composted.
  • We send over 20,000 tonnes of batteries to landfill each year, and it takes 50 times more energy to make a battery than you actually get from a battery.
  • In the UK, we lose the natural resource of 4 tonnes of mercury through the disposal of around 80 million fluorescent tubes.

Tin Cans/Aluminium Recycling Facts

  • 24 million tonnes of aluminium is produced annually, 51,000 tonnes of which ends up as packaging (drinks and food cans etc) in the UK.
  • If all cans were recycled in the UK we would need 14 million fewer dustbins.
  • Aluminium cans are 100% recyclable, meaning each can you place in the recycling can end up back on the shelf within 60 days.
  • Every steel can is 100% recyclable, it can be turned into more steel cans, bicycles, parts for cars and many other every day products each and every time.
  • Every day over 80 million food and drinks cans end up in landfill from the UK alone.
  • We get through over 5 billion aluminium cans per year in the UK or 600 per household on average..
  • Aluminium cans are worth between 6 and 20 times more than any other material used in packaging. Estimates suggest that at any one time, there are over £30 million worth of cans waiting to be collected and recyled.
  • UK consumers use around 12 billion cans each year and if they were lined up, they would reach the moon and back.
  • Around £36 million worth of aluminium is sent to landfill each year. But it is still the world's most recycled packaging material, 60% of the cans sold in the UK have been recycled.
  • Making 1 new can uses the same amount of energy it takes to recycle 20 drinks cans.
  • If all the aluminium drinks cans recycled in the UK were laid end to end, they could orbit the earth 30 times.
  • The recycling rate for aluminium cans is a massive 90% in countries such as Brazil and Japan.

Paper Recycling Facts

  • In 2010 USA paper recycling had increased by over 89% compared to 20 years earlier.
  • It takes one tree to make 230 average sized newspapers/magazines.
  • Each tonne of recycled paper will save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 3 cubic meters of landfill space, 4000 KW of energy and 7000 gallons of water.
  • It can take just 7 days to turn old newspapers, books and magazines back into new ones.
  • On a typical Sunday nearly 90% off newspapers are thrown away in Britain. This is the equivalent of throwing half a million trees into landfill.
  • 70% less energy is needed to recycle paper and reuse it compared to making it from raw materials.
  • Using recycled paper produces 73% less air pollution that if new paper was made from raw materials.
  • Over 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are used in the UK per year. Which is the equivalent weight of 260 QE2s (Queen Elizabeth Cruise Ship).
  • It takes 24 trees to make just 1 tonne of newspaper. If we didnt recycle any newspapers, that would equate to chopping down 300 million trees in the UK alone.
  • If every person in the UK recycled just 10% more paper it would save approximately 5 million trees each year.
  • 4 billion trees are cut down each year to meet demand for paper aross the world.
  • The UK uses a woodland the size of Wales every year in paper usage.
  • The amount of waste paper sent to landfill each year would fill 103,000 double decker buses.
  • However, paper is still one of the most recycled materials in the UK, and over 2/3 of it is recycled.
  • Every Christmas, we throw away enough wrapping paper to cover over 11,000 football pitches.
  • The average family in the UK throws away 6 trees worth of paper every year.
  • Paper and card account for 1/5 of all waste produced in the UK.

Plastic Recycling Facts

  • 275,000 tonnes of plastic are used each year in the UK. That is around 15 million bottles per day which are classed as 'single use'.
  • 20 times more plastic is made and used today than it was 50 years ago.
  • The rate of plastic use within Western Europe is growing at around 4% per annum. That might not sound a lot but that means within 20 years we will have doubled our current plastic use.
  • Plastic can take up to 500 years to fully decompose.
  • Americans throw away 2,500,000 plastic bottles per hour on average.
  • It takes as little as 25 2L plastic bottles to make one adult sized fleece.
  • The vast majority of plastic shopping bags are only used once and take up to 100 years to decompose. The new legislation which was passed in 2015 means supermarkets and major retailers charge 5p per plastic carrier bag with the monies raised going to charity. This is hoped will reduce the throwaway mentality towards plastic carrier bags.
  • Plastics from items such as carrier bags and bottles that end up in our oceans kill around 1,000,000 sea creatures every year.
  • Most households throw away at least 40kg of plastic each year, which is enough to make 10 recycle bins.
  • You could drive a car 11 metres on the oil it takes to make 1 plastic bag.
  • It takes around 5 plastic bottles to make an extra-large t-shirt or filling for a ski jacket.
  • The average household in the UK use 480 plastic bottles each year, with only 270 being recycled and means 44% are being sent to landfill.

Glass Recycling Facts

  • Each family uses an average of 500 glass bottles and jars every year.
  • The largest glass furnace produces over 1 million glass bottles and jars per day.
  • Glass is 100% recyclable and can be reused over and over again.
  • Glass that is thrown into landfills will never decompose, putting a great strain on landfills with too much glass content.
  • Milk bottles are used an average of 13 times before being recycled.
  • The glass recycling level in the UK saves enough energy to launch 10 space shuttle missions.
  • The average glass bottle is made up of as much as 25% recycled glass, green bottles however contain as much as 90%.
  • The UK has more than 50,000 bottle banks with each bank capable of holding 3,000 bottles.
  • 5 out of every 6 glass bottles are thrown away.
  • More than 28 billion glass bottles and jars end up in landfills every year which is the equivalent to the Empire State Building filling up every 3 weeks.

Food Recycling Facts

  • The average person throws away 74kg of food waste each year. This is the equivalent of 1077 banana skins.
  • UK households throw away an estimated £470 of food which is edible every year.
  • 1 litre of oil can pollute up to 1 million litres of water drinking water.
  • The UK throws away at least £13 billion pounds worth of food each year which could have been eaten.
  • We throw away 1.4 million untouched bananas every day.
  • 1.3 million unopened yoghurts each day.
  • 600,000 whole uncooked eggs every day.
  • 1.2 million untouched sausages.
  • 20 million slices of bread every day.