We've come a long way! - Recycle Week celebrates 10th anniversary

12th June 2013

Over the past decade, the UK has recycled an astonishing 50 billion plastic drinks bottles – enough, laid end-to-end, to stretch to the moon and back more than 10 times over!

This is just one of impressive facts to come to light as Recycle Week - the national event to encourage more people to recycle more things more often - celebrates its 10th anniversary.

During the same period, local authority recycling schemes across the UK have collected materials like card, paper, plastic and glass worth a staggering £2.4 billion.

This includes:

  •  Paper and card worth around £1 billion
  •  Plastic worth around £339 million
  •  Mixed cans worth around £174 million
  •  Mixed glass worth around £153 million
  •  Textiles worth around £124 million

Launched as ‘The BIG Recycle’, the annual event has played an important role in helping consumers understand what can and can’t be recycled  in a decade which has seen huge changes and improvements to recycling collections and services.

“As a nation, we’ve come a long way since we first began to take recycling seriously,” said WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin.

“This is good news for the environment - it means we’re sending less waste to landfill and making better use of the natural materials that go into the products we use every day.

“It is also hugely important for our economy. The UK recycling sector now generates more than £13 billion a year in sales of recycled materials, employs more than 40,000 people and contributes around £3 billion-worth of additional value each year to the UK economy.

“The sector has also increased its sales revenue threefold since 1998, outstripping growth in the overall economy over the same period of time.”

“This progress is thanks to huge effort  by the public, local councils, businesses, community groups and charities, many of whom use WRAP’s www.recyclenow.com and www.recyclenowpartners.org.uk websites, and Recycle Week’s resources to help them,’ said Liz.

“Given this progress, you may be asking whether we still need Recycle Week. The truth is, there’s still more we can all do to recycle more things, more often – to capture more of the valuable materials that are collected for recycling in our own area. 

“For example, take the humble plastic bottle - householders are now recycling more than 50 per cent of these and most councils collect them now. This is great news, but that means there’s still about half ending up in landfill!”

Defra Resource Management Minister Lord de Mauley said: “Dealing with waste and recycling properly not only makes environmental sense but also good business sense.  We’ve made great strides in household recycling and over the next decade we can look forward to doing much more to reduce waste in the first place. 

“Reusing and recycling products and materials will also open up new avenues for UK businesses in growing domestic and export markets.”

Recycle Week 2013 starts next week (June 17-23) with a ‘recycle at home and away’ theme.

This covers packaging, metals, plastics, textiles and food waste collections.  Free ideas and information for consumers is available from www.recyclenow.com including a postcode locator to enable people to check what they can recycle in their area. Special Recycle Week packs for partners are available on www.recyclenowpartners.org.uk

10 recycling fast facts

  • Household recycling has risen from 11% in 2001 to 43% in 2013, and more than half of business waste is now recycled.
  • More than 9 billion drinks cans are made in the UK every year – 80% are aluminium.
  • In one year, a single drink can could be recycled as many as eight times, saving enough energy to make 160 new cans.
  • Over 3 billion cans are recycled in the UK each year – equivalent to the weight of 18,000 double- decker buses.
  • All steel cans contain up to 25% recycled steel.
  • Recycled plastic bottles can be turned into all kinds of things – even fleece jackets! It takes 25 recycled drinks bottles to make a fleece jacket.
  • It takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastic compared with using ‘virgin’ materials
  • An estimated £140m worth of used clothing ends up in landfill every year in the UK
  • In the UK, we send 700,000 tonnes of clothing to be re-used recycled each year – enough to fill 459 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Aerosols and foil are the two materials that the greatest proportion of people throw away due to lack of knowledge that they are included in their council’s kerbside recycling collection.

For more recycling facts, figures, and images go to:



Examples of Recycle Week partner activities

Tesco is supporting the Week in its customer magazine and on social media. In stores, Tesco is making its car parks available to local authorities wanting to hold recycling roadshows and Community Champions will also be promoting the benefits of recycling to customers. 

For further information, contact the press office on 01992 644 645 or press.office@uk.tesco.com

Colgate is launching its Big Electric Brush Swap – inviting people to bring along their old electric toothbrush for recycling and simply ‘swap it’ to receive a brand new Colgate® ProClinical® A1500 electric brush. Teaming up with recycling partner DHL Envirosolutions, the initiative will start at gyms across the country during Recycle Week – and finish with events at Waterloo Station (9-12 July) and Victoria Station (23-26 July). Please note stocks of replacement toothbrushes are limited!

For further information, contact eloise.keightley@cohnwolfe.com (020 7331 5379).

NB: Most small electrical items can now be recycled at collection points across the country – to find the nearest, consumers can check www.recyclenow.com or contact their local council.

Coca-Cola is running a series of ‘Happiness Recycled’ campaigns which will be supported by Zero Waste Scotland volunteers, including a presence at the Royal Highland Show.

Barratt Developments (Barratt Homes, David Wilson Homes, Ward Homes) offered a recycling challenge to 14 primary schools across the south east. Pupils were encouraged to collect as many empty plastic milk bottles as possible over a two week period and learn more about the recycling process.  In return for their efforts, the schools have been provided with tables and benches made from recycled plastic.  

For further information and photos, contact: Katherine Liggatt, regional PR officer. Katherine.liggatt@barratthomes.co.uk  (01923 297 380)

Britvic, The Co-operative Food, SA Brain and Tesco are among organisations which will be promoting workplace recycling.

Useful websites







Watch out for #RecycleWeek2013 on Twitter – and join in our Twitter Hour from 11am – 12 noon on Monday June 17. Follow us on Twitter at @Wrap_UK

WRAP’s vision is a world without waste, where resources are used sustainably. It works in partnership to help businesses, individuals and communities improve resource efficiency.

Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by government funding from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.


Gill Dickinson

PR Manager
01295 819619