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FoE: UK throws away £650m each year by dumping waste

The UK is throwing away more than £650 million every year by dumping and incinerating waste, a new report by Friends of the Earth shows.

Research by the environmental campaign group reveals that if material currently being landfilled or incinerated was recycled instead, it would slash carbon emissions, reduce the need to import materials from abroad, and create new UK green jobs across the waste management industry.

Its report is called Gone to waste: The valuable resources that European countries bury and burn. It estimates the value of materials that could be recycled, based on an European Union-wide analysis of 2004 data that has been adjusted to account for the improved recycling rates in the UK since then.

In 2004, the UK produced around 51 million tonnes of recyclable waste, from households, businesses and industry. According to the FoE, around 28 million tonnes (55%) of this waste was being sent to landfill or incineration. Taking into account improved recycling rates since 2004, an estimated 24 million tonnes of recyclable waste is still being disposed of annually worth £650 million.

The FoE report also highlights that the whole of the EU is wasting more than €5 billion every year by landfilling or incinerating recyclable material. The FoE is calling on the Government to ban the landfilling and incineration of recyclable material and to ensure that as much waste as possible from households and businesses is either re-used or recycled.

FoE senior waste campaigner Dr Michael Warhurst said: The UK is woefully lagging behind much of Europe on recycling. Flanders in Belgium recycles over 70 per cent of its waste thats twice as much as we recycle here.

Our low recycling rate means that we have to import more expensive resources like aluminium this is economic madness when they could be recycled here and sold for profit instead.

Its time we recognised the real value of the materials we throw away every day. We only have one Earth and its resources are finite making better use of them would save money and help tackle climate change.

The Government must scrap its plans for new incinerators and provide councils with the support they need to increase recycling instead. The money saved should then be reinvested in greening our economy.

Breakdown of key recyclables in the UK sent to disposal (municipal solid waste and commercial and industrial unadjusted from Prognos 2008)


Percentage of material going to disposal

Estimated total materials with market value (£m)

Estimated net total market value of all materials (£m)


59 per cent



53 per cent



91 per cent


Iron & Steel

23 per cent



28 per cent



56 per cent



83 per cent



72 per cent


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