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Survey response challenges recycling goals

Research for Suez indicates “a significant disconnect” between how well Britons think they are recycling their household waste and the national recycling performance.

Despite UK collection rates of less than 50%, an online survey of 2,000 British adults, conducted in early August by YouGov, found that eight out 10 people claim to recycle all or ‘the majority’ of their waste.

According to the poll, 38% recycle everything they know they can recycle, while a further 41% of people reckon to recycle the majority. Suez points out that, in England alone, households throw out more than 27 million tonnes of refuse, of which only around 45% is recycled.

It says this begs the question: “If most people are recycling the majority of everything that can be recycled, why is the national recycling figure not higher?”

Respondents were asked what stops them recycling more than they do currently. Nearly half (44%) said nothing in particular, while 15% of people admitted to recycling half or less of everything they could and 3% said they recycled nothing at all.

Those aged 45 and over claim to recycle more than the younger generations. Among 45 to 54-year-olds, 41% claim to recycle all they can, rising to 53% for those aged 55 and over. But it falls to 15% for 18 to 24-year-olds.

Suggested as an initiative to help boost recycling rates, nearly half of the respondents (49%) backed the idea of council tax reductions for households that recycle more and reduce their general waste, while 42% supported the idea of reward vouchers to spend in local shops.

Chief executive of Suez, recycling and recovery UK, David Palmer-Jones said he was heartened to see the degree of enthusiasm for recycling.

”If nearly eight out of 10 people think they are already recycling all, or at least the majority, of everything that can be recycled, then that may explain why many don’t see the need for further improvement.

”Perhaps it’s time to engage the public in more active ways, so that they become more individually invested in recycling performance rather than simply being told to recycle by industry and policy-makers because it’s the ‘right thing to do’.

”The findings of our research also show we all have more to do to engage the younger members of society and help them to become better and more enthusiastic recyclers, while also making existing collection schemes as easy to follow as possible.”

Potential initiatives to improve recycling rates (% of respondents in favour)

  • Standardised packaging made from readily recyclable material (50%)
  • Council tax discounts to households that recycle more and reduce their general waste (49%)
  • Rewarding good recyclers with vouchers for local shops (42%)
  • Recycling services provided for a greater range of materials by all councils (42%)
  • Compulsory clear and prominent recycling information on all packaging (39%)
  • Compulsory weekly separate food waste collections for all households by local authorities (27%)

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