In a report prepared jointly by environmental analysts Eunomia and the European Environmental Bureau analyses recycling data from around the world to compare municipal solid waste (MSW) recycling rates as equally as possible in order to explore best practice.

MSW is made up of everyday items that are thrown out by the public at home or on the go. 

The best performing country was Germany with a recycling rate of 66.1 per cent followed by Wales at 63.8 per cent. Scotland came in 15th at 46.3 per cent, above England in 18th place at 42.8 per cent and Northern Ireland in 20th place at 41.8 per cent.

The report reveals that based on recent MSW recycling increases Wales is set to knock Germany off the top spot next year. Wales has set itself a target to be zero waste by 2050.

‘It’s important to note this research has been carried out so we can identify who the real leaders in recycling are, to share best practice by shining a spotlight on what these countries are doing,’ said report author and Eunomia Managing Consultant Rob Gillies.

‘We also hope that this will help progress the debate on how best to measure ‘real’ recycling, in line with the principles of the waste hierarchy, in a way that is as consistent as possible within Europe and further afield,’ 

Countries that made it into the top 10 had recycling rates of more than 50%. There were key themes and policies shared by those countries doing well on recycling. These include: 

  • Mandatory separate collection of key dry recyclable materials.
  • Mandatory separate collection of bio waste.
  • Statutory targets for rates of recycling or the reduction of unrecycled waste.
  • Pay-as-you-throw charges.
  • Producer responsibility schemes, where producers fund the collection of key recyclables.
  • Taxes on landfill.
  • Deposit refund systems.

The Scottish Government has set a target of recycling 70% of all waste by 2025.