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Environment

9 in 10 UK Households ‘Regularly Recycle’ as Environmental Awareness Rises in Britain

Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN’s Global Goals include Goal 11 for sustainable cities and communities. That includes a commitment to reduce the environmental impact of cities, especially on waste management. People-powered recycling is a pivotal component of this, and it’s important to celebrate success when it comes along. Join our movement and take action for the planet here.

Britain is becoming more environmentally conscious. 

As the movements that defined 2019 are beginning to return after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reverberation of their impact continues to be felt, reflected in the rise in both awareness and personal action.

That’s especially true when it comes to the changes in people's daily behaviour. Take, for example, the shifting habits in Britain on recycling: a new study has found that 9 in 10 households now recycle regularly and are willing to go even further to help the planet.

The data was released on Monday by Recycle Now — a government-funded initiative for recycling in England — to coincide with the start of Recycle Week 2020.

Recycle Now is a campaign managed by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (known as WRAP), a nonprofit organisation that focuses on the reduction of waste. 

Indeed, those who choose not to recycle are few and far between: only 9% of those surveyed said they recycled “occasionally”, while just 4% said they recycled “rarely” or “never.”

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The study strikes an optimistic tone — at a time when such hope can seem hard to come by.

It also found that more British people were eager to do more to help the environment — an increase from 68% last year to 73% in 2020 — while a staggering 93% felt that “everyone has a responsibility to help towards cleaning up the environment.”

That belief in the power of individual action persisted even through the COVID-19 lockdown. While normal life and daily habits were disrupted, a separate report from WRAP published on Sept. 1 found that recycling wasn’t just maintained — it actually improved.

In April, most local authorities saw recycling go up by 25% in comparison to the previous year, especially in materials like glass and cardboard. The latter saw recycling growth of more than 100% in some places, without significant rises in contamination.

“It’s fantastic to see that despite everything that has been thrown at them this year, more people than ever in the UK are taking responsibility for the environment by choosing to recycle,” said Peter Maddox, the director of Wrap UK. “However, we still have a way to go in terms of correctly identifying what can and cannot be recycled.”

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Despite progress, there was, however, some room for improvement.

Most households (82%) still attempt to recycle one or more items that are not accepted by local authorities, like plastic bags and toothpaste tubes. And at the same time, UK homes on average throw away between one to two items that could have been collected for recycling.

Getting recycling right is important, because reducing waste and reusing materials effectively is the path to a more sustainable society. It means less energy will need to be used to keep creating materials, reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to increases in global temperatures.

It also means that we consume and therefore extract fewer resources, which helps conserve ecosystems and protects wildlife.

If you’re in the UK, you can find out what the recycling rules are in your community by heading to the Recycle Now website here.