UK in the dark about new life of recycled items
A quarter of UK residents (26%) don’t see the direct benefit of recycling, according to new figures launched to mark the beginning of Recycle Week (25 September – 1 October 2017).
The statistics, from national recycling campaign Recycle Now, reveal that more than half the UK population (54%) wants to find out more about what their recycling gets used for, while nearly two thirds (64%) 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 most of the population (82%) believes recycling does make a difference in some way, and just 5% claim not to recycle in any way.
In the UK, 44% of all plastic bottles and 40% of glass packaging from our homes is not recycled. Similarly, a staggering 400,000 tonnes of card wasn’t collected for recycling in 2015 – the same weight as 2,000 blue whales!
While recycling levels still have room for improvement, 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.
Disbelief around recycling potential
A consumer poll (2,426 UK participants) revealed many aren’t aware of what they could see their recycling come back as, for example:
- More than four in five people (84%) were unaware that empty aerosol cans could come back as part of their mobile phone
- Two thirds (66%) of people didn’t realise plastic bottles can be turned into football shirts
- Two thirds (65%) don’t believe recycling glass jars can save electricity and
- Two thirds (67%) 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 (59%) 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.
What goes around comes around
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% less energy than making it from scratch; while making an item from recycled metal uses 95% 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, head of Recycle Now, continued: “Every little helps and recycling one more thing can have a big impact. For instance, nearly half (44%) 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, said:
“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.”
Recycle Now’s Recycle Week campaign will highlight common household items which can be recycled into something new. Exciting prizes from Recycle Week sponsors Co-op, Currys PC World, John Lewis, the Ocado Foundation and Wilko will be on offer in daily competitions on the Recycle Now social media channels.