Can recycle help the environment? Not for half of UK adults


Despite its key role in conserving energy, reducing landfills and even saving money, half of the adults in the UK don’t believe recycling is good for the planet, according to a recent survey by Smart Energy GB.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The study, carried among 4.000 adults, showed just 49% believing that removing single-use plastics will make a difference and that just three in 10 think energy efficiency would have the biggest impact on protecting the environment.

In association with the University of Salford, Smart Energy GB carried the study to highlight the effect of energy efficiency and smart meter installation in the battle against the climate crisis.

Only 20% of those surveyed were aware of the smart meter’s (an electricity network system that uses data technology to make the UK more energy efficient) contribution in helping make the country more sustainable. If each house installed a smart meter, the country could achieve 11 percent of its 2050 carbon targets.

The research company stressed that Brits underestimated the importance of energy efficiency in the battle against the climate crisis, and measures were needed to raise awareness in the general public.

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Smart Energy GB, said: “We are facing a climate crisis. The UK wants to lead the world with our commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But we have a lot to do if we really want to meet that goal.”

The role of recycling

As with many things, it just takes more — more resources, more energy — to make new things than to recycle old things. Consider that 20 recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce just one single can using virgin materials

Glass is one of the most popular materials recycled, because of its raw material composition — mostly sand — and because it can be recycled over and over again without degrading in quality. In fact, recycled glass is the main ingredient in making “new” glass.

In 2016, the UK generated 222.9 million tons of waste, up 4% from 2014. England was responsible for 85% of the total. Construction and demolition generate the most – about 136 million tons a year. Mineral waste accounts for 36% of the total and includes anything that’s leftover from mining or quarrying and can’t be used again.

The recycling rate for UK households’ waste was 45.7% in 2017, a small increase on the previous year. Wales had the highest recycling rate in 2017 at 57.6%. It’s the only UK country to exceed the EU’s target to recycle at least 50% of waste from households by 2020. England and Scotland followed with 45.2% and 43.5% respectively.

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