Recycling facts


Eye opening facts about recycling, waste and materials...

Do you know how many plastic bottles are in a pair of jeans, or how many batteries you would use in a year? Check out our recycling facts below to find out about everyday materials and things we can recycle at home.

Plastic recycling facts

  • 1,135,000 tonnes of plastic packaging was recycled in 2019
  • In 2019, plastic packaging collected from households accounts for just over 49% of the UK's total recycled plastics
  • An estimated 13 billion plastic bottles are disposed of each year
  • 1 tonne = 25,000 plastic bottles
  • A pair of jeans could include an average of 8 recycled 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 
  • 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
  • In 2019, it is estimated that over 1.4 million tonnes of plastics packaging are consumed by households in the UK
  • From this 1.4 million tonnes, it is reported that 560,000 tonnes is collected for recycling
  • 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
  • In Europe, it is estimated that between 4-6% of oil and gas is used for producing plastics
  • Recycling 1 tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonne of carbon
  • In 2019 kerbside schemes collected 377,000 tonnes of plastic bottles, 6000 tonnes more than 2018
  • 2,290,000 tonnes of plastic packaging consumed in the UK, of which 1,447,000 tonnes are from households

(source: WRAP)

Recycling facts on clothing and textile waste

  • The textile industry contributes around 10% of global greenhouse emissions and 20% of global waste water production
  • The UK has the highest consumption of new clothing in Europe, with the average person buying 26.7kg of new clothes each year
  • The average lifetime for a piece of clothing is estimated to be 2.2 years leading to around 300,000 tonnes of used clothes either being burned or sent to landfills on an annual basis.

Facts on electrical waste 

  • 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21 per cent in just five years
  • The UK generates 23.9kg per capita, second to Norway. Although WEEE produced per capita in the UK has fallen from 2016, when it stood at 24.9kg
  • UK households are throwing away 155,000 tonnes of domestic electrical waste every year and we are hoarding 527million small old electricals (weighing around 190,000 tonnes) – nearly 20 items per household
  • The total number of cables hoarded in UK homes (140 million) could circle the earth more than 5 times
  • Based upon existing data, the UK is reusing and recycling around 60% of electrical waste across household and commercial waste
  • The average home contains around £1,200 worth of electrical and electronic equipment but many householders don’t realise their used products still have significant value – this value amounts to around £3 billion across the UK
  • Recycling our old electricals would cut as much CO2 as taking 1.3 million cars off the road

Facts on battery recycling

  • Each year we throw away 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
  • 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 21 batteries a year
  • Brits spend nearly £5 million each week on batteries, yet 98% of them are not recycled and end up in landfills
  • In just one year, between April 2019 and March 2020, nearly 260 fires were started by 'zombie' batteries in recycling or waste management facilities in the UK
  • 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

Metal recycling facts

  • Around 5.9 billion aluminium drinks cans are recycled in the UK every year. That's enough to circle the world almost 18 times if laid end to end 
  • Novelis estimates that every household in the UK consumes around 340 aluminium drink cans every year. Each one of these can be recycled back into new drink cans repeatedly
  • Recycling aluminium cans saves energy and natural resources, and also reduces the pressure on landfill sites
  • If all the aluminium cans sold were recycled there would be around 14 million fewer dustbins emptied into landfill sites every year!
  • 82% of aluminium drink cans sold in the UK were recycled in 2020 
  • Used aluminium drink cans can be recycled and back on supermarket shelves as new drink cans in as little as 60 days
  • Steel can be recycled repeatedly, without loss of quality or strength
  • Producing steel from recycled material saves 75% of the energy needed if steel were made from virgin material
  • Every tonne of recycled steel saves on average 1.67 tonnes of CO2


Household waste facts

  • Around 30 million tonnes of household waste is generated in the UK every year, of which 5.9 million tonnes is packaging
  • 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. 
  • In total, a staggering 6.6 million tonnes of food waste comes from our homes each year in the UK, at a cost of £14 billion. Of that, 4.5 million tonnes is food that could have been eaten, which works out to around eight meals per household each week. This ‘edible’ element of household food waste is responsible for 14 million tonnes of CO2e alone - as much greenhouse gas produced as flying from London to Perth more than 4.5 million times
  • 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 
  • 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
  • Every tonne of paper recycled saves 17 trees

(source: WRAP)

Packaging recycling facts

  • In developing countries, a lack of packaging or inadequate packaging cause between 30-50% of foodstuffs to decay before they even reach consumers. For example, a wrapped cucumber lasts more than 3 times as long as an unwrapped one!
  • In the UK, the majority of people will handle over 50 types of packaging every day
  • Plastic bubble wrap was originally invented for use in textured wallpaper
  • Every tonne of paper recycled saves 17 trees