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UK Recycling Makes Positive Contribution in Climate Change Debate

  • Current UK recycling saves 10-15 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases a year

  • This is equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars off the road

  • By recycling, everyone can make a difference on climate change

UK recycling currently saves between 10-15 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases per year compared to other waste management options, equivalent to about 10% of the greenhouse gases emitted by UK households, according to WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme).

“What is so striking about these figures is that they demonstrate, for the first time, the positive contribution that recycling can make to tackling climate change – equivalent to taking a staggering 3.5 million cars off the road,” says Jennie Price, WRAP’s Chief Executive.

The greenhouse gas savings are based on current levels of UK recycling for glass, paper and cardboard, plastics, aluminium and steel, and have been calculated using data from a major international review study published today by WRAP. Entitled Environmental Benefits of Recycling: an international review of life cycle comparisons for key materials in the UK recycling sector, the study also demonstrates that recycling our waste is better for the environment than burning or burying it. This is in line with current Government policy, which puts waste reduction and recycling at the heart of its strategy for diverting rubbish away from landfill.

The most comprehensive assessment ever undertaken, the study has reviewed and analysed the best Life Cycle Analysis studies from around the world which have evaluated the environmental impacts of recycling compared to incineration or landfilling for seven of the most commonly recycled materials.

“More and more people are becoming aware of just how serious an issue climate change is, and are looking for ways to make a positive contribution to tackling it,” says Jennie Price. “Recycling will obviously not cure the problem on its own, but this research shows it is a simple, everyday way in which everyone can make a difference.”

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