In this report, prepared jointly with Resource Media, we analyse recycling data from around the world to understand which countries really lead the municipal waste recycling league table.

Some eye-catching headline recycling rates are reported in the media, but the basis on which rates are calculated can vary considerably. In some cases, a great deal of commercial or construction waste is counted, while approaches to accounting for rejects and for intermediate processes like MBT vary considerably. Even within the UK, the four nations now report their recycling on different bases, with Defra producing an annual set of figures that allow the results to be compared on an equal footing.

Both the OECD and the European Commission produce annual municipal waste and recycling statistics, which eliminate some (but far from all) of the inconsistencies. However, there are a few high recyclers that are members of neither organisation – Singapore and Taiwan, for example, report recycling rates above 55%. Bringing these data together allow us to present a world league table of reported recycling rates, which shows Germany as the world leader on 66%.

This is only the start of the story, though, as these figures don’t really compare like with like. Taking account of the different ways of counting, Germany remains in top spot, but is less than two percentage points ahead of Taiwan, which rises to second place, while Wales is in third.

World Recycling Top 10

The report also shows the rapid progress that Wales is making, and that the country is rapidly closing in on Germany’s established place at the top of the chart.

This report is available free of charge. Please provide a few details about yourself and one of the team will email you the full report shortly.