The Countries Winning the Recycling Race

Recycling has gained significant traction around the world. There are some countries that have taken the lead and made recycling a priority. Others have lagged behind. Here’s a list of the heavy hitters with their composting/recycling waste according to OECD data.

Germany has a recycling rate of 65%. One way Germany encourages sustainable waste clearance and packaging is with its Green Dot program. The more packaging there is, the higher the fee the manufacturer has to pay. This shows Germany’s commitment to reducing overall waste and not just to recycling. As the highest producer of waste in the EU these steps are important for Germany.

South Korea has a recycling rate of 59%. Recycling is mandatory in South Korea. Food bags are available at stores so people can properly dispose of food waste. Other waste from old clothing to batteries can be recycled from your home.

Switzerland has a 51% recycling rate. This is partly because while recycling is free, waste collection comes with a charge. In Switzerland, there is curbside recycling as well as recycling at grocery stores.  Some items have to be taken to special facilities to be recycled. So, while the recycling rate is high, recycling isn’t always convenient.

The Netherlands has a recycling rate of 50%. The Netherlands, like Germany, focuses on reducing waste before recycling, though waste disposal is still very important.

Iceland’s recycling rate is a solid 45%.  Reduction in packaging might make this number go up a little bit higher.

The United Kingdom has a recycling rate of 43%. Some areas have good access to eco-friendly rubbish clearance and recycling services  but it varies. As recycling becomes more uniformly available throughout the UK, the rate of 43% should rise.

Australia has a recycling rate of 41%. That’s a very good number. Australia has increased its e-waste recycling over the last 10 years and has managed to move up the list. It has been behind the Netherlands and the UK in recycling, but Australia really upped its recycling game recently so it’s percentage may soon increase.

Italy’s recycling rate is also a respectable 41%. One town in Italy made news by recycling 82% of its waste. Obviously, not all towns in Italy have been able to reach this level, but it shows that there is a willingness to make a change.

France’s recycling rate has increased to 38%. This is important because France is the second largest producer of waste in the EU.

The United States has a recycling rate of 35%.  Availability of recycling varies greatly from urban to rural communities. Access to recycling is slowly increasing including access to composting or food waste recycling.

Spain has a recycling rate of 30%.  Recycling bins are available to the public on the streets in Spain.  The rate being significantly lower than countries like Germany could be due to a lack of regulation on manufacturers.  Still, 30% is a good rate.

Canada’s recycling rate is 24%. It recycles fewer types of waste than some other countries. It doesn’t recycle a lot of e-waste, for example.

This is just a selection of the countries in the report. Other notable countries include Slovenia and Austria tied with a recycling rate of 58%.  The numbers don’t say everything. The country with the highest recycling rate is the country that produces the most waste in the EU. Other countries are making strides to improve their waste removal policies and may be changing their numbers soon. Another difference is whether or not recycling is mandatory. When waste recycling is mandatory, the government has to make recycling available to everyone. In many rural areas in the world, recycling is not easily available. Also, in high-density housing recycling can be limited as well. It seems that recycling is easiest for single family homes.  As that changes, recycling numbers will increase. Rubbish removal should be done properly if we want to live in a greener and cleaner environment.

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