Nine out of 10 UK households recycle regularly, study shows

Nearly nine out of 10 UK households say they “regularly recycle”, with more prepared to further change their lifestyles to help the environment, research reveals.

Statistics released on Monday by the Recycle Now campaign show despite the challenges and restrictions of lockdown, the UK appears to be becoming more environmentally aware.

Shortly after the lockdown, 73% of consumers said they were willing to do more to help the environment, up from 68% in 2019. At the same time, 93% of UK households believe “everyone has a responsibility to help towards cleaning up the environment”. Just under one in 10 (9%) admit they recycle only occasionally and one in 25 (4%) “rarely” or “never”.

Recycle Now is the government-funded national recycling campaign for England, managed by its waste advisory body Wrap and used by more than 90% of English authorities. The figures are published at the start of the 17th annual Recycle Week from research during lockdown and a bigger survey in July.

“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, director of Wrap UK. “However, we still have a way to go in terms of correctly identifying what can and cannot be recycled.”

On average, UK households dispose of 1.5 items each day that could be recycled in the general rubbish – mainly foil, aerosols and plastic detergent or cleaning bottles. The majority (82%) mistakenly put one or more items in the recycling that are not accepted by local collections, predominantly plastic film/wrapping, toothpaste tubes and glass cookware.

Wrap says its own data shows recyclable tonnage surged by a quarter early in lockdown but with the exception of garden waste “most kerbside collections were maintained throughout lockdown”.

Separate polling published on Monday reveals the challenges of recycling in densely populated areas, with one in three in Londoners admitting they find recycling information difficult to understand.

The findings came from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which will unveil a partnership with Innocent drinks and environmental charity Hubbub to try to boost recycling rates.

Households will be urged to help catch “recycling’s most wanted” such as drinks cans, yogurt pots and bathroom plastics, which belong in the recycling, but sometimes manage to escape.

Gavin Ellis, co-founder of Hubbub, said: “Lockdown transformed the way we live and work, including our recycling habits and we know from our research that 43% of people are more concerned about plastic pollution than before Covid-19. At a hugely challenging time for local authorities, supporting households to recycle better is more important than ever before.”

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