Climate Action

Germany is the world’s leading nation for recycling

According to new research, Germany is the leading nation for recycling in the world, followed closely by Wales and Singapore.

  • 11 December 2017
  • Websolutions

According to new research, Germany is the leading nation for recycling in the world, followed closely by Wales and Singapore.

According to self-reported recycling rates, Germany achieves a score of 66 percent, and leads the worldwide list. Wales follows in second place with 64 percent and Singapore is in third with 61 percent. The top 5 is completed with South Korea and Taiwan.

All the countries that made the top10 list reported recycling rates of minimun 50 percent, including Switzerdand, Austria, Netherlands, Taiwan and Belgium. 


                                                           Source: Eunomia

However, in this new research Eunomia, a Bristol-based environmental consultancy, took the recycling rates that countries have self-reported and adjusted them with additional publicly available waste data. This helped create more accurate and comparable recycling rate figures and evaluate actual progress between countries.

Therefore, the research revealed that after adjusting for differences in how different countries measure recycling rates, the top 3 countries were, in fact, Germany (56 percent), Austria (54 percent) and South Korea (54 percent).

The report analysed recycling practices in each country to identify where discrepancies lie in how recycling is reported.

It identified the main differences are in how processes are accounted for, or not, in reported figures. These include: recycling processing losses, contamination within dry recycling and biowaste, and the inclusion of commercial and industrial waste.


                                                        Source: Eunomia

All high-performing nations shared key policies and common waste management practices and legislation, including comprehensive recycling schemes, i.e. a mandatory separate collection of dry recyclables, clear performance targets and policy objectives, funding for recycling, as well as financial and behavioural incentives to directly and indirectly, encourage citizens to recycle.

Such examples include taxes on residual waste treatment and disposal, restrictions on residual waste bins, Deposit Refund Schemes (DFS), and producer responsibility schemes- where producers fund the collection of key recyclables.

Based on the trajectory of the adjusted recycling rates Eunomia predicts that Wales is on its way to overtaking Germany by 2018. However, Wales’s success sheds light on the underperformance of England, which ranks 18th in the world list.

Dominic Hogg, Chairman of Eunomia, said: “It’s great to see the ambition of the Welsh bearing fruit, with their recycling rates close to the top of the table. It’s embarrassing for England, which is standing still in terms of performance and dropping in the rankings as others continue to progress. We know that the public is concerned about the growing problem of waste, especially the way plastics are dealt with”.

A spokesperson of the Welsh Government told The Guardian: “In the 20 years since devolution, Wales’s recycling rate has increased from just under 5% to 64%. We are well on track to meet our 70% target by 2025”.

He added: “We are always looking at how we can continue to improve. Earlier this year, Cabinet secretary Lesley Griffiths announced her plans to halve food waste by 2025. We are confident this is achievable thanks to the enthusiasm that exists in Wales to recycling”.

You can access the full “Recycling – who really leads the world?” report here