What are the top countries for recycling and why is America not recycling?

August 12, 2023

The United States represents 4% of the world’s population but we account for 12% of all the solid waste produced worldwide. In comparison, China and India make up more than 36% of the world’s population but generate only 27% of the world’s solid waste. Most other developed countries produce far less, and this is due in large part to the level of recycling practiced elsewhere. Here’s a list of the top five recycling countries and how they’re doing it.

  1. Germany

Germany has had the highest recycling rate in the world since 2016, with 56.1% of all waste being recycled. The German government holds packaging manufacturers responsible for all the waste they produce and requires them to dispose of it in a sustainable manner.

  • Austria

Austria has increased its recycling by banning certain waste items from going to landfills. They’ve also banned products that have a carbon emission rate of more than 5%, and that’s increased their recycling considerably.

  • South Korea

South Korea has encouraged recycling by introducing a plan whereby private companies collect waste and sell it at a profit. They banned PVC and plastic bottles in 2020 and plan to phase out disposable cups and plastic screws by 2027.

  • Wales

In 2018, Wales had a recycling rate of 52.2%. The government has a statutory duty to promote sustainable development and they have introduced a number of plans to encourage the update of recycling facilities across the county. The Welsh government has set a goal of reaching a 70% recycling rate by the year 2025.

  • Switzerland

In 2018, Switzerland had a recycling rate of 49.7%. The Swiss government has developed a recycling policy known as “polluter pays”, where businesses and households pay for any non-recyclable wastes they produce. Trash bags that are taken to landfills are taxed, which encourages people to recycle and avoid products sold in non-recyclable packaging. To help with this effort recycling centers are set up across the country where residents can take their recyclable items.

Final Words

The US produces far more solid waste to be sent to landfills than most other developed countries. This is due in part to the apathy of the American people as well as a lack of political will to make the investments in infrastructure necessary to change this startling statistic. The countries listed above have developed programs to reward recycling and punish those who produce too much garbage, and the US would be wise to follow suit.

For generations, Okon Recycling has been a trusted leader in the international metal recycling industry.  Founded over 100 years ago, we’ve sustained our company by forming solid partnerships with our clients. We completely understand our clients’ systems and workflow, and we provide customized recycling solutions according to their specific needs. Over the years, we have kept millions of pounds of scrap out of landfills. By doing so, we’re paving the way for a cleaner and more sustainable future for generations to come.  If you would like to learn more about our company and the recycling services we offer, please visit our website or contact us.