UK recycling rate increases faster than any other EU country

The European Environment Agency says the UK is on track to hit important recycling directives by 2017

The UK increased its recycling rates faster than any other nation in Europe during the first decade of the 21st century, putting it in the top ten EU countries for recycling.

In 2001 just 12% of UK waste was being recycled or composted, but by 2011 the rate had risen to 39%, the average for EU countries. One major factor in the UK’s progress has been the contribution of Wales, which now recycles 54% of its waste.

The data, published in March 2013 by the European Environment Agency (EEA), also showed that EU countries as a whole increased recycling rates by 13%, from 27% in 2001 to 40% in 2011.

As a result, some countries have already reached the European directive of recycling 50% of all waste by 2020. These include Germany, Belgium and Austria, the latter leading the way by recycling 62.8% of its waste.

However, the EEA has warned that many countries will fail to reach the 50% target if decisive action is not taken. Thirteen countries still recycled less than 20% in 2011 and some decreased their recycling rates altogether; Norway’s fell from 44% to 42% and Finland’s from 34% to 33%.

The UK’s 27% increase since 2001 puts it on track to meet the directive, with the EEA expecting it to reach the target by 2017.