Every day Brits are making more of a conscious effort to become a greener nation.
However, we all can admit to recycling bad habits or having recycling guilty secrets, such as throwing away an item without first checking if it can be recycled.
We conducted a survey of 2,000 people to find out whether Brits know what items to recycle, as well as how often they recycled.
We also analysed Google search data to see what the nation was searching for most when it came to recycling.
(note: this survey is purely a light-hearted piece to add a little bit of extra insight into our recycling habits. It is not a conclusive attitudinal research study and the results should not be taken as such).
By looking at recycling data taken from various governing bodies such as DEFRA, SEPA, Stats Wales and DAERA NI, we were able to determine which country has the highest percentage of waste recycled or reused.
Wales is the best at recycling with a total of 65% of waste actively being reused or recycled.
Northern Ireland is in second place with 50% and Scotland in a close third with 42%.
In last place is England which recycles 41% of its total waste generated – quite a way behind Wales.
The study also delved into which ages are recycling the most and who admits to putting things into the bin they shouldn’t.
The results showed that those aged 16-24 and 25-34 are the most likely to dispose of recyclable items into the general waste bin, with 84% of both groups admitting doing this on at least one occasion.
For those aged 16-24, just 11% admit to never doing this and 14% for those aged 25-34.
The age group least likely to do this are Gen X / Boomers (55+) with only 59% admitting they have done this on at least one occasion. A large 37% of respondents in this age range admitted to never doing this.
However, recycling has become much more of a hot topic over recent years, so Gen X and the Boomer generations could be less aware of what should be recycled by not hearing about these messages as much as Millennials and Gen Z.
We tested respondents by asking “which of the following, if any, do you think can go in the recycling bin/box” - cartons, glass bottles, tins, plastic bottles and cardboard.
Cartons top the list as the most surprising item with 40% of respondents unaware they can be recycled. Although over 90% of local authorities now collect cartons for recycling, many still do not. In a close second place is glass bottles with 35% of respondents unaware they are recyclable and third is tins with 32%.
We also delved into what items respondents wrongly assumed can go in the recycling bin/box. Kitchen roll/tissues top the list with 32% of respondents making this mistake. Kitchen roll cannot be recycled due to the paper fibres being too short for recycling machines. You can however use kitchen roll as compost for your house plants.
Up next is clothing with 21% of respondents assuming it can be recycled. Clothing cannot be placed in a recycling bin, it can however be donated to charity or sold for re-use.
In third place is food with 20% of respondents believing it can be recycled. Food cannot be recycled in the traditional sense but like kitchen roll it can be used as compost. However, many local authorities do separate food bin collections, which may be the reason for the confusion.
Relying on Google to tell you exactly what can be recycled? We also looked at Google search data to find out which recycling questions are the most commonly asked.
‘What plastics can be recycled?’ is the most common recycling query with a whopping 480 Google searches each month, that’s 5,760 per year. But with seven different types of plastic, we were not surprised that this is the top question that people are confused about. The four plastic types you can recycle are PET, HDPE, LDPE and PP.
Up next in second place is ‘what to do with polystyrene?’ which has 260 monthly Google searches (3,120 per year) and third is ‘what to do with shredded paper?’ with 210 Google searches per month.
Shredded paper cannot be put in your recycling bin as the small pieces can fall through the machinery used to sort recyclables. If you are wanting to recycle shredded paper, you can add it to your home compost bin. It is also suitable as bedding material for some animals.
76% admitted to putting items in the recycle bin without checking whether it is even recyclable.
Breaking the study down by regions, Glasgow scored the lowest on this question with 64% of respondents admitting they have done this before.
In total, our survey collected responses from 17 major UK cities with just the 3 best performing cities shown here. This however doesn’t determine they are the three best recycling cities overall.
71% of Brits admitted to putting recyclable items into the regular waste bin despite knowing these items can be recycled.
In terms of cities, Brighton scored the best on this question with 58.7% of respondents admitting to this behaviour.
In total, our survey collected responses from 17 major UK cities with just the 3 best performing cities shown above. This however doesn’t determine they are the three best recycling cities overall.
As one of the leading new house builders in the UK, we have a wide varity of new build homes across the country, as well as having numerous schemes to help with your home purchase including the deposit boost, deposit unlock scheme and part exchange scheme.
We conducted a survey of 2,000 UK respondents and the stats include all respondents who admitted to doing said behaviour (e.g., choosing not to put recyclable items in the recycling bin) on at least one occasion.
Data was collected from various government websites including DEFRA, SEPA, Stats Wales and DAERA NI.
The search volumes were taken from Google’s Keyword Planner, using the latest full year available at the time of writing. This was from November 2020 to November 2021.
Recyclable items may vary by region/local, and the items have been kept as general as possible, but we cannot account for all regional differences.