Top facts on recycling and the environment

Find out how many tonnes of rubbish we get through a year and learn lots more about different materials and rubbish like steel, paper, plastic, aluminium and glass.

Aluminium facts

  • Aluminium is the third most abundant element in the earth's crust and is the earth's second most used metal
  • 90% of all drinks cans sold in the UK every year are made of aluminium
  • Recycling aluminium drink cans saves up to 95% of the energy needed to make aluminium from its raw materials
  • Making one aluminium drink can from raw materials uses the same amount of energy that it takes to recycle 20
  • Recycling 1 kg of aluminium saves 8kg of bauxite, 4kg of chemical products and 14 Kilowatts of electricity
  • The energy saved by recycling 1 aluminium drink can is enough to run a television for three hours
  • 75% of the aluminium ever made is still in productive use today
  • The UK produces over 9 billion drinks cans every year. 80% are made of aluminium
  • Every minute of every day, an average of 113,200 aluminium cans are recycled (source: thinkcans.net)
  • The average household uses 3.2kg of aluminium cans a year - That's about 208 cans
  • Used aluminium drink cans can be recycled and back on supermarket shelves as new drink cans in as little as 60 days
  • An aluminium drink can contains four different aluminium alloys: the can body, can end, ring pull and the rivet attaching the ring pull

Steel facts

  • Each household uses approximately 600 steel cans per year
  • Steel cans are becoming lighter with the average weight of a soft drinks can in 2004 expected to be only 21.4g. In 1980 it was 31.2g
  • There are over 2.5 billion cans recycled in the UK each year, that's a saving of 125,000 tonnes of solid waste every year
  • Stretched end to end, these recycled cans would stretch three quarters of the way round the Earth
  • The thinnest part of the can wall measures only 0.07 mm thick. That is thinner than a human hair
  • It would take 1087 steel drinks cans stacked end to end to reach the top of the London Eye or 2818 to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower
  • Steel is the most recycled metal in the UK – and in the world
  • All steel cans are 100% recyclable. They can be recycled over and over again, into anything from cars and bicycles to more steel cans
  • All steel cans can be recycled
  • All steel cans contain around 25% recycled steel
  • Steel is the only common metal that will stick to a magnet

Plastics facts

  • There were 640,613 tonnes of plastics packaging collected for recycling in 2012 (source: Recoup)
  • With 440,401 tonnes reported as coming from UK households (69%) (source: Recoup)
  • An estimated 13 billion plastic bottles are disposed of each year
  • 65% of UK local authorities provide a collection for plastic bottles as part of their bring service (source: WRAP)
  • 1 tonne = 25,000 plastic bottles
  • The majority of plastic bottles are made from PET or HDPE
  • Recycling a single plastic bottle can conserve enough energy to light a 60W light bulb for up to 6 hours
  • It takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastic compared with using ‘virgin’ materials (source: WRAP)
  • More than 285,000 tonnes, or 6,288,502,000 (6.28 billion) household plastic bottles are not recycled – this cost local councils £24.3m in disposal costs (source: WRAP)
  • It is estimated that nearly 1.2 million tonnes of plastics packaging are consumed by households in the UK (source:recoup)
  • From this 1.2 million tonnes, it is reported that 440,401 tonnes is collected for recycling – an overall 37% recycling rate (source:recoup)
  • 25 recycled PET bottles can be used to make an adult's fleece jacket
  • Up to 40% less fuel is used to transport drinks in plastic bottles compared to glass bottles
  • Plastic packaging uses only around 2% of all crude oil produced
  • Recycling 1 tonne of plastic bottles save 1.5 tonne of carbon
  • Kerbside schemes collected 269, 790 tonnes of plastic bottles in 2012, an increase of 4.3% from 2011 (source: recoup.org)
  • 2,535,000 tonnes of plastic packaging consumed in the UK, of which 1,194,420 tonnes are from households (source: recoup.org)
  • A Pair of jeans includes an average of 8 recycled plastic bottles

Battery facts

  • Each year we throw away about over 600 million batteries
  • Over 20,000 tonnes of batteries are sent to landfill site in the UK each year. It takes 50 times more energy to make a battery than it gives during its life. (source: www.reducereuserecycle.co.uk)
  • Batteries can be found in virtually every room in the house. They are used in a wide range of objects including toys, remote controls, mobile phones, iPods and even doorbells
  • Every person in Britain uses about 10 batteries a year
  • A European Directive on Batteries and Accumulators was published in 2006 and aims to minimise the impact of batteries on the environment and encourage the recovery of the materials they contain
  • The battery collection and recycling targets increase each year to reflect the Battery Directive target. Therefore in 2014 the UK must ensure the collection of waste portable batteries is equivalent to at least 35% (as a percentage of weight of batteries placed on the market), 40% in 2015 and 45% in 2016 and onwards

Electrical goods facts

  • Electrical goods are the fastest growing waste stream in the UK, growing by 5% each year
  • Every year an estimated 2 million tonnes of WEEE items are discarded by householders and companies in the UK. (source: HSE)
  • Nearly 25% of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) that’s taken to household waste recycling centres could be re-used, worth around £200m gross a year. (source: WRAP)
  • In the lifetime of 1 UK citizen 3.3 tonnes of waste electronics is created! (weeeman.org)
  • Two million TV sets are discarded every year - most end up in landfill sites (Recycle Now)
  • Over six million electrical items are thrown away every year in the UK. It is estimated that over half of them are still working or could easily be repaired. (ITDG, 2003)
  • 15 million mobile phones are upgraded in the UK each year, laid from end-to-end they would reach from John O'Groats to Lands End! (www.therecyclingfactory.com)

Waste facts

  • Around 30 million tonnes of household waste is generated in the UK every year, of which 5.9 million tonnes is packaging
  • Packaging makes up less than 3% of all waste from UK households, commerce and industry combined that goes to landfill
  • We throw away more than 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year from our homes - most of which could have been safely consumed. (source: WRAP)
  • According to the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, wasting food costs the average family £420 a year. If we all stop wasting food that could have been eaten, the CO2 impact would be the equivalent of taking 1 in 5 cars off the road
  • It is estimated that around 600 million tonnes of products and materials enter the UK economy each year… only 115 million tonnes of this gets recycled (source: WRAP)

UK recycling facts

  • In the UK we throw away 13 billion steel cans every year, stacked on top of each other, you could make 3 piles of cans that would reach to the moon! (source: www.scrib.org.uk)
  • The energy saved from recycling 1 glass bottle is enough a power a light bulb for four hours
  • Disposable nappies take 500 years to decompose
  • Producing steel from recycled material saves 75% of the energy needed if steel were made from virgin material
  • If every Briton purchased one item made from recycled wool a year it would save 371 million gallons of water, 480 tonnes of chemical dyes and 4571 million days of an average family's electricity needs (source: UK Gov)

 

Packaging facts

  • Ten times more energy goes into the production of the food and goods it contains, than the packaging itself! (source: INCPEN)
  • If a household turned down its room heating thermostat by 2 degrees or drove one less mile a day, it would save as much energy as is used to make the packaging for its whole year's supply of goods. (source: INCPEN)
  • The energy used to make the packaging for food is just 11% of the energy in the total supply chain (including growing, transport, retail, freezing and cooking). In other words, the energy for all of these other parts of the supply chain combined is 9 times as significant as that of the packaging. (source: INCPEN)
  • The energy saved by recycling just 1 aluminium drink can, is enough to run a television for 3 hours!
  • The energy content of one day's packaging is equal to one and one quarter miles in the car source: (The Packaging Federation)
  • Glass containers are on average 30% lighter than in 1980s (source: INCPEN)
  • In developing countries, a lack of packaging or inadequate packaging cause between 30-50% of foodstuffs to decay before they even reach consumers. (source: Effective Packaging)
 
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