£2.8bn of paper and cardboard will be waste by 2030

Two-in-five paper and cardboard packages used in the UK will be sent to landfill or incineration plants by the end of this decade.

cardboard lot

Recycling specialist DS Smith has shared new research into Great Britain’s woeful record on waste management, revealing that the country has one of the worst recycling rates in Europe.

Just 74% of all paper and card in the UK is recycled, compared with an average of 82% on the continent. Despite being the third largest producer of this waste type in Europe, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined rank 25th out of 30 nations measured for paper and card recycling. 

Worryingly, trends suggest this could fall  to 56% within the next seven years, based on decline since 2018. Adding to the problem, the fall in engagement has coincided with a huge rise in ecommerce and home deliveries. If this happens, the UK will miss its 2030 overall recycling target of 65%, having already failed to meet 2020’s 50% goal, set by Defra. 

Recently unveiled, Downing Street’s new Simpler Recycling reforms have also been flagged as a cause for concern largely due to the comingling of various recycling streams, which research shows risks increasing contamination and therefore rendering piles of recyclables unusable. 

The DS Smith report, Wasted Paper: A Path To Better Recycling also warns that recycling could fall out of fashion, with uptake among 18-24 year olds a particular concern. Currently, only seven-in-10 people within this age group recycle ‘almost all’ paper and card. This compares with nine-in-10 over-65s. 

‘To revitalise recycling, we should learn from the proven, effective approaches of other UK and European nations who are reaping the benefits of well-structured recycling systems,’ said John Melia, Strategy Development and Innovation Director, Recycling, at DS Smith.

‘Poor recycling in the UK rates not only compromise the environment, they stand in the way of realising a big economic opportunity – we can all agree that leaving £2.8bn on the table is madness when there’s a thriving industry ready to receive the material and put it to good use, supporting thousands of jobs and creating value for the economy in a circular way,’ he continued. 

More on waste and recycling: 

UK data centre waste heat will keep thousands of homes warm

What does ‘Simpler Recycling’ actually mean?

Plastic-eating enzymes offer new hope for pollution solution

Image: Jon Moore


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