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WRAP proves recycling is best for environment

Recycling has been proven to be the best way to deal with waste in an environmentally friendly way, a major study has found.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) commissioned the report from the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Topic Centre on Waste to look at hundreds of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) studies from around the globe to work out what is the best way of dealing with waste in order to minimise harmful CO2 emissions.

Indeed, the report found that recycling in the Uk saved 10 to 15 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent from entering the atmosphere. This equates to taking 3.5 million cars from UK roads.

Its research concluded that for glass, wood, paper and cardboard, plastics, aluminium, steel and aggregates, recycling created less emissions that other waste treatments including incineration and landfill.

However, with some materials such as wood, there were only a limited amount of LCA studies available and so the data is still sketchy.

WRAP director of policy and evaluation Ray Georgeson said: “A report like this hasn’t been done anywhere in the world before. More than 80% of the studies we looked at show recycling has better environmental impact than landfill and incineration.

“This is good news all round. It chimes with the waste hierarchy, Government plans for the Waste Strategy and shows recycling makes a significant contribution to helping prevent climate change.”

The report even shows that when transportation of materials for recycling abroad is still better environmentally than creating a product from virgin material or sending it for landfill or incineration in the UK.

In order to work out the best life cycle for each material, the Danish researchers looked at Life Cycle Analyses and worked out which form of waste treatment the study has a preference for. In most cases, recycling came out top. For example, it was found that for the recycling of plastics, 32 studies preferred recycling of the material compared to only 8 for incineration. While 15 studies preferred recycling to none for landfill when it came to plastics recycling.

A similar pattern was found for paper, glass, aluminium and steel.

WRAP plans to hold an international conference in the autumn to discuss the findings of the report.

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