Each month, my husband and I save our cans and bottles and turn them into an actual recycling center, instead of just throwing them in our recycle bin. We collect about $25 every four weeks by doing this (it helps that I live in a state that offers a 5 cent redemption on cans and bottles). Paper goods and cardboard, and some shredded paper go in our curb-side recycle bin. I also include boxes, such as cereal boxes,  in this paper goods/cardboard mix.  I know that many cities now offer a curb-side recycling program that makes it easy for most people to recycle, but it got me wondering what the US recycling statistics were compared to other countries.

The first thing I noticed while browsing blogs that posted statistics, is that most items are broken down by type of item, such as paper, aluminum cans, steel cans, cardboard, etc. So, I’ll compare these US statistics first (I couldn’t find the other countries broken down by item ):

Now the overall comparison per country:

  • United States overall recycling rate is 32% (Benefits of Recycling)
  • Europe 27% (I averaged out the percentages based on the BBC News chart – Italy, Greece, England, and Portugal are bringing this total down)
  • Europe, minus the countries I listed above that have very low recycle rates, averages out to 37% (slightly higher than the US rate)
  • England recycles 17.7% of their waste (BBC News)
  • Austria, by far the leader in recycling, recycles 60% of their waste (Environment-Green)
  • Greece 10% (BBC News)
  • Finland 30% (BBC News)
  • Belgium 50% (BBC News)
  • Netherlands 47% (BBC News)
  • Germany 40% (BBC News)

I was surprised that the overall recycle rate of Europe wasn’t much higher, when I threw out the lowest recycle rates, and quite a bit lower when I left them in. My original thought was that they would be higher, like those recycling rates seen in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria. I guess that all countries need to strive for a 50% or higher recycle rate, not just the United States.

My very unscientific research also doesn’t examine the total amount of waste each country produces, so it may be misleading to see England only recycling 17% when they may only be producing half the amount of garbage, even if adjusted for the difference in population.

I do know, however, that the less waste we create and the more garbage we recycle will only lead to a healthier, happier environment. Of course, there’s always the option of reusing your garbage. Check out these clever homes made from recycled materials from Phoenix Commotions: click here for the New York Times article.


  1. I gotta say, after being in Portugal for 3 weeks and really seeing what they use and don’t use.. their waste is REALLY low compared to an average couple or family here in Canada.

    I should write a post about this… but the gist of it, is that they generally compost all of their veggies/leftovers, their aluminum cans are not entirely recycled all the time, but I was told at every corner to conserve and recycle cardboard, cans, etc…

    And they were a heck of a lot more conscious about it than anyone here is.

    Still, it was just a couple of families I saw. It may not be the norm, but my initial impression was: whoa.

    • Little House Reply

      Thanks for the personal view and comment. That’s one thing I didn’t research in my recycling data: how much more trash we produce versus other countries. It would be interesting to know exactly what the numbers look like. I’ll check your blog for new posts, maybe I’ll see one on recycling in Portugal!

      -Little House

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.