It can be useful to know what % of recyclables actually get recycled to get a big picture of how the waste management system might work in a particular place.
In this guide, we list the recycling rates in different countries.
Summary – Recycling Rates In Different Countries
An estimate of an achievable recycling rate for an entire country might be 60% for the US for all materials
Australia on the other hand could specifically be recycling five times as much plastic as it is now according to one estimate
In the US, recycling rates have increased every decade since 1960 – starting at 6%, and getting up to 34% in 2015 (although one source we found indicated the US’ recycling rate average about 9% annually – which obviously contradicts this)
States within countries can have higher recycling rates than others – a few examples of this are SF at 80% (diversion rate from landfills), NY at 21% and Chicago at 10%
China’s recycling rate is roughly 22%
In the EU-27 and Norway, 43% of municipal waste was recycled – but, rates can differ between different European countries
Some estimates put Australia’s recycling rate at 50 to 60% (but, only based on loose numbers)
Canada’s recycling rate was 26%
England’s recycling rate was about 45%
Russian recycling rate was about 5 to 7%
India’s recycling rate is about 60%
According to one set of data, the average global recycling rate is 14%
From the above numbers, we see that the average overall recycling rate of a country can vary year to year. Recycling rates can also vary between States and provinces, and certainly between materials
Some other notes:
What is important to note is that there has been a big shift in the way recycling works in some of the major developed countries.
China previously used to import/buy recyclable material, but has placed a stop on that (as of 2017/18).
Some places in the US for example have had to move the excess recyclable material to landfills because of different reasons (to cope with excess supply, and because it makes more economic sense being among some of the reasons)
So, the real figure to know is the amount of material that is being processed at recycling plants, and not just admitted to recycling plants and sent elsewhere.
Also note the difference between municipal waste and other types of waste like industrial waste
What Might Be An Achievable Recycling Rate?
Obviously it depends on the type of waste you are talking about, and the facilities and systems available in a specific country.
But, azocleantech.com suggests:
- … the average American throws away 3.5 pounds of trash each day, 60% of which could be recycled and reused
- … across Australia only about 20% of all plastic packaging is recycled, which means we could recycle five times as much plastic as we currently are
Recycling Rates In The United States
- Over time [in the United States], recycling rates have increased from just over 6 percent of MSW [municipal solid waste] generated in 1960 to about 10 percent in 1980, to 16 percent in 1990, to about 29 percent in 2000, and to over 34 percent in 2015
- The U.S. recycling rate is around 34.5%
- San Francisco is already way ahead of other cities … [and it] diverts about 80 percent of its waste from landfills, or more than 1.5 million tons every year. [as a comparison,] New York only diverts about 21 percent of its waste and Chicago is at about 10 percent.
You can read more about waste generation, recycling/composting, combustion, and landfilling numbers and stats at https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/national-overview-facts-and-figures-materials
Recycling Rates In China
- China’s plastics recycling rate in 2013 was about 22 percent – far higher than the United States, which averages about 9 percent annually.
Recycling Rates In Europe
- … recycling rates for municipal waste increased by 13 percentage points between 2004 and 2014, and recycling rates for packaging waste by 10 percentage points between 2005 and 2013.
- In 2014, 43% of the municipal waste generated in the EU-27 and Norway was recycled, while in 2013, 65% of packaging waste generated was recycled.
- For municipal waste, large differences in recycling rates between European countries prevail; in 2014, the rates ranged from 64% in Germany to 1% in Serbia.
- In six countries, recycling rates were equal or higher than 50%, while five countries recycled less than 20%.
- In 2014, 24 countries recycled 55% or more packaging waste and overall recycling rates ranged from 81% in Belgium to 41% in Malta.
- These differences indicate a large potential for improvement.
Recycling Rates In Australia
- In 2016–17 the national plastics recycling rate was 11.8%
- It’s hard to say exactly how much recycling is processed in Australia, as there’s no coherent national database of facilities.
- But, according to a 2011 government report, Australia generates roughly 50 million tonnes of waste a year, around 50-60% of which is recycled.
Recycling Rates In Canada
- As of 2012, Canada has a recycling rate around 26.8%
- Canada’s post consumer plastic recycling amount increased by 0.9% from 2015 to 2016
Recycling Rates In The UK
- Local authorities in England produced 22.4m tonnes of waste in 2017, of which 45% was recycled
Recycling Rates In Russia
- … the percentage of recycled waste in Russia is about 5-7%
Recycling Rates In India
- Indians throw out 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste every day, of which about 60% is recycled, most of it in the informal sector. … the recycling rate [of plastic] in India is considerably higher than the global average of 14%