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Waste management around the world

clip_image002The UK government has substantially upped its efforts to improve recycling over the past decade. With landfill sites filling up and space at a premium in the UK, more and more of us are being encouraged to recycle.

However, whilst many of us seem to have caught the recycling bug here in the UK, large scale change can only be achieved through worldwide participation in recycling practises, and whilst considerable improvement has been made, the UK is still a long way off meeting our EU target of 50% of our waste to be recycled. So what is the rest of the world doing when it comes to waste recycling, and is there anything that we learn from it?

Recycling policy differs from country to country and the amount each country recycles will ultimately depend on a combination of both the attitude of the government in place at the time and the amount of consumer pressure in that area. As of 2013, the UK ranked in 11th place in the recycling tables at 39%. In contrast, fellow EU member Austria topped the world tables with a recycling rate of 63%. Austria has managed to make such considerable advances because of two main factors. The first is media presence. Austria has managed to use advertising and the media to cultivate really positive attitudes surrounding the recycling process, which in turn has diffused through the whole of Austrian society, encouraging more and more people to recycle. Secondly, with state of the art facilities and machinery available to companies, more and more people are being incentivised to go into the recycling business, which in turn has increased demand for recyclable materials.

However, whilst it’s important that we don’t dismiss the UK’s shortcomings compared to Austria, it is important to point out that the UK has undoubtedly made considerable improvement, doubling how much it recycles over the past 15 years, and there are still plenty of countries that the UK is vastly outperforming.

Nigeria is one example. Africa’s most populous country is one of those guilty of lagging far behind with what is expected when it comes to recycling. Their infrastructure is unequipped to deal with the waste that they are producing and many of it ends up in open landfill. Estimates suggest that only 13% of recyclable materials are ever recovered from city landfills, meaning that more and more new products have to be created in order to feed the demand for plastics and glass whilst recyclable materials lie unprocessed in landfill sites.

Romania is another example. The country has extremely lax laws when it comes to waste management. Despite agreeing to EU targets being set at 50% of its waste to be recycled, Romania has been guilty of badly failing in its recycling efforts. Without the right controls put in place, and a lack of investment in both facilities and schemes, meeting these targets has been made almost impossible. Estimates suggest that just 1% of waste is ever recycled.

So, whilst the UK is doing ok, it could still do much better, which could be helped by government intervention, more awareness campaigns, more financial incentives, and businesses having the equipment needed to recycle more. Recycling is a major consideration for LSPS in Leicester, and we are dedicated to recycling everything possible to reduce waste going to landfill. If more companies offered the same service, recycling as much waste as possible, then it could greatly help with the UK’s performance. For more information about recycling, please read our article, “Recycling: are we doing our bit?”

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