As part of edie’s Circular Economy Week 2022, we take a look at the official facts and figures about how much waste is generated each year in the UK, and outline recycling rates for waste streams including plastics.

Author avatar image

by Sarah George Published 23rd May 2022

In numbers: How much waste is produced in the UK – and how much is recycled?

This week (23 – 27 May) is edie’s Circular Economy Week – a week-long editorial campaign designed to inform and inspire sustainability, energy and resource efficiency professionals to take bolder steps towards an economy free from waste.

As part of this campaign, this feature provides a snapshot of the levels of waste currently being generated in the UK and of how this waste is managed. It covers plastics, e-waste, food waste and waste from construction, demolition and excavation.

The UK Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) recently published finalized statistics on household waste generation and recycling during 2020 – the most recent full year for which data is available. That paper confirmed that the UK had missed its target to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020. The recycling rate for household waste dipped from 45.5% in 2019 to 44% in 2020, with Defra attributing backwards progress to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Challenges to the circular economy during lockdown included disrupted recycling collections, increased use of hard-to-recycle masks and PPE containing plastic, and the ending of in-person refill services. With lockdown restrictions now lifted in the UK, there is a major opportunity to increase the focus on the circular economy in policymaking and across the private sector. Here, edie provides an updated baseline from which progress must now be made.