Leading Countries By Recycling Rate

The universal symbol of recycling.
The universal symbol of recycling.

To improve and conserve the environment, many countries have embarked on national waste management practices through legislation to encourage recycling. Recycling is the process through which otherwise useless waste is converted into useful products. For example, waste paper can be converted into paperboards. Environmentalists and international bodies have established waste management principles to be followed by their member countries. Apart from the environmental importance, recycling is instrumental in creating job opportunities which in turn boosts economic growth.

10. Australia (30%)

Despite its competitive recycling efforts, Australia has a recycling rate of only 30%. This is attributed to the sparse population and challenging landscape. Australia has established legislation for waste management by manufacturing companies enabling improvement on recycling and waste management.

9. Belgium (31%)

Belgium has an average recycling rate of 31% and is one of the leading countries in Europe regarding waste management. Belgium recycles the majority of its waste with as little as 1% deposited in landfills.

8. Marshall Islands (31%)

The increasing population of the Marshall Islands has led to the need for waste disposal and management policies to counter the effects of indiscriminate waste disposal on the island and in the sea. Though the islands have a recycling rate of 31%, much has to be done regarding waste screening to prevent dumping of toxic waste on the land.

7. Ireland (34%)

Ireland has a recycling rate of 34%. Waste management has increased in the country due to government policy and legislation by the European Union. Currently, Ireland focuses its waste management efforts on the elimination of landfills, reuse of waste, and reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

6. Switzerland (34%)

Switzerland has a "polluter pays" waste management principle and provides taxed bin bags to its residents to put the waste in. Switzerland has a recycling rate of 34%, similar to that of Ireland. The waste is sorted at the household level into various containers. Switzerland recycles several materials including aluminum, tin cans, light bulbs, electrical waste, glass, paper, textiles, and plastic bottles.

5. Sweden (34%)

Sweden has a recycling rate of 34%. It is home to one of the most sophisticated recycling systems in the world. Countries such as Norway, the UK, and Ireland send their waste to Sweden for recycling. However, Sweden has also been criticized for incinerating most of its waste for the production of heat and lighting for its households.

4. Norway (34%)

Norway is home to highly efficient recycling plants, which helps it maintain a recycling rate of 34%. Norway has a waste collection system with different containers for different waste and incorporates automated recycling technologies in various towns where any waste can be recycled.

3. Hong Kong (45%)

Due to the large generation of solid waste, the government of Hong Kong has introduced measures to deal with the waste including formulation of waste management policies and mass education. Recycling in Hong Kong has been recorded at 45% making it the third leading country in recycling rates.

2. Singapore (47%)

Singapore has a recycling rate of 47% making it the second best country in the world for recycling. Singapore has two major waste management principles of waste minimization and recycling which have been central to Singapore's success.

1. South Korea (49%)

South Korea has an excellent recycling rate of 49% due to highly developed waste management systems. Before recycling, garbage is sorted into relevant waste categories such as landfill, organic, recyclables, and large waste objects. Recycled items in South Korea include paper, glass, steel, fabrics, and plastics.


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