Recycling around the worldThe UK government is trying to encourage more people to recycle their waste and reduce theUKs waste mountain.Figures suggest 60% of all household waste could be recycled or composted, but the largest nation in theUK, England, appears to be reusing only 17.7%.Here BBC correspondents provide a snapshot of how the UKs European neighbours and other countriesapproach recycling of everyday rubbish.SWITZERLAND: Imogen FoulkesSwitzerland is proud of its recycling efforts, and with good reason. Glass and paper are just some of thethings the average Swiss refuses to simply throw away.There are bottle banks at every supermarket, with separate slots for clear, green and brown glass. Everytown has a free paper collection once a month, and that does not mean just old newspapers; most peoplerecycle everything made of cardboard or paper, from cereal packets to old telephone bills.Then there is green waste. If you have a garden, all the trimmings can be put out on the street (neatlybundled of course) every two weeks, and they will be collected.Aluminium and tin can be taken to local depots, batteries handed over at the supermarket, and old oil orother chemicals deposited at special sites.Plastic PET bottles are the most common drinks containers in Switzerland, and 80% of them are recycled- far higher than the European average of 20 to 40%.But the Swiss do not recycle just because they care about the environment. There is a strong financialincentive. Recycling is free, but in most parts of Switzerland throwing away rubbish costs money - eachrubbish bag has to have a sticker on it, and each sticker costs at least one euro (60 pence).So the less you throw out, the less you pay. No sticker? Then the rubbish will be left outside your houseto rot.UNITED STATES: Matthew DavisEfforts to improve recycling rates and to reduce household and commercial waste are led by the USEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA).Today, the US recycles about 28% of its waste, the EPA says, a rate that has almost doubled during thepast 15 years.Recycling of specific materials has grown even more drastically: 42% of all paper, 40% of all plastic softdrink bottles, 55% of all aluminium beer and soft drink cans, 57% of all steel packaging, and 52% of allmajor appliances are now recycled.Twenty years ago, only one roadside recycling programme existed in the US.By 1998 there were 9,000 roadside programmes and 12,000 recyclable drop-off centres across thenation.Some 480 materials recovery plants have been established to process the collected materials.In 1999, recycling and composting activities prevented about 64 million tons of material from ending upin landfills and incinerators.The EPAs WasteWise scheme is aimed at businesses and other organisations and targets the reduction ofmunicipal solid waste and certain industrial wastes.
Recycling rates vary from state to state. At the bottom end of the scale Alaska, Wyoming and Montanarecycle less than 9% of waste, while in New York, Virginia and five other states more than 40% of wasteis recycled.DENMARK: Thomas Buch-AndersenWaste is not just waste. That is the underlying philosophy of one of Europes "greenest" countries. Fordecades, the Danish environment policy has been to regard waste as a resource.Tough standards have been set by consecutive governments, but it is up to the local authorities to collectwhatever waste households may produce.In 2003 that averaged 559 kg of waste per Dane, ranging from plastic and paper to bottles and batteries.In those councils where not all types of waste are collected at the house, nearby disposal sites or citizenhelplines are in place.Nearly 10,000 Danes are in the business of collecting waste - more than 0.1% of the entire population.The hard push towards a greener Denmark has given he country a proud record.Government figures for 2003 suggest that 31% of all household waste was recycled, while 62% wasincinerated. The remaining 6% was landfill waste.However, often the total amount of waste is not big enough for Denmark to have its own recycling plants.In particular, plastic waste, waste from electrical and electronic products, and batteries and metal aresent abroad for recycling.The government also aims to limit the waste mountain by encouraging industry to promote products thatleave a minimum of waste after use.GERMANY: Tristana MooreThe Germans like to think of themselves as the world champions of the environment. There is no denyingthe fact that Germans take green issues seriously. When it comes to separating your household rubbish,this can be a complicated business.As a foreigner living in Berlin, you can easily be embarrassed by your German friends who will berate youfor not separating your rubbish.There are at least five types of rubbish bin in the courtyards of apartment buildings and inside peopleshouses. Luckily, the bins are colour-coded, to avoid any confusion - a yellow bin for packaging (old milkcartons etc), a blue bin for paper and cardboard, bins for glass (separated into ones for clear, brown andgreen glass) a "Bio" bin designed for left-over food and plant waste. Finally, there is a black bin for therest of the rubbish (or for those people who do not bother to sort out their rubbish).In theory, people are obliged under German law to take any "special rubbish," such as batteries orchemicals, to a recycling centre. If you fail to do this, it could be considered an "administrative offence",although in practice prosecutions are rare.The separation of rubbish is not compulsory for the private citizen, but according to surveys, around 90%of Germans are willing to sort out their rubbish.Where all this rubbish finally ends up is also complicated. According to a new law which came into forceon the first of June 2005, the left-over rubbish must not simply be consigned to a rubbish dump, but itmust be subjected to a pre-treatment process.GREECE: Richard GalpinIn the cramped offices of the Ecological Recycling Society in central Athens, Philip Kirkitsos hits me withsome alarming statistics.
Every year, he says, one billion plastic drinking water bottles are thrown away in Greece, along with onebillion soft drinks bottles and yet another billion plastic containers for cleaning fluids.Almost one-fifth of the entire waste produced by this country is plastic, and yet just 1% of it is recycled.Greece, he admits, is at least 15 years behind the rest of the EU in almost all areas of recycling and isunlikely to meet EU targets for next year.In Athens the recycling bins so common in most European cities are a rare sight. Although recently theauthorities have launched new schemes, the impact so far seems to be minimal.Recycling just is not high on the list of priorities for the average Athenian.Most bags of household waste contain large amounts of glass, metal, paper and plastic which end upbeing dumped at the citys only landfill which - not surprisingly - is now almost full.As a result, the capital currently faces an acute waste management crisis because no alternative siteshave been set up.Ironically the city does have what is believed to be Europes largest recycling plant, built next to thelandfill four years ago. But the plant - estimated to have cost at least 75m euros (£50m) - has stood idle.The reason? It was badly damaged by a mountain of rubbish which collapsed on top of it.ITALY: Jeremy BowenWaste disposal regulations in Italy vary from district to district. In Rome, the rules were toughenedearlier this month. People who do not separate their rubbish can be fined up to 619 euros if they have arecycling bin within 500 metres of their front door.Romans often claim that it is hard to find a bin and even harder to find one that is not full. The citycouncil has ordered 2,500 new bins. They are colour-coded green for household waste, white for paperand blue for plastic.The streets of the historic centre of Rome have almost no recycling bins yet. The streets are cleaned veryefficiently, by vehicles that drive over waste and suck it up like enormous self-propelled vacuum cleaners.In southern Italy local politicians claim that the waste management industry is controlled by organisedcrime. Last year the European Commission said it was taking action against Italy, for 28 breaches of EUlaws on the environment. It said that Italy was denying its citizens the same quality of life enjoyed bypeople in other EU countries.When I moved here five months ago I asked the caretaker of my building whether I should separate myfamilys rubbish. He laughed and looked incredulous. "Are you joking?" he said. "This is Rome."SENEGAL Hamadou Tidiane SyRecycling is not done on an industrial scale, but it is part of daily life for many resourceful Senegalese.Everything is recycled, from plastic bags to school exercise books, food cans, bottles of mineral water andeven fruit peel. The peel is said to be collected for use in cheap perfume.Tomato tins become drinking cups in rural areas or are used by beggars in the streets, old newspapersand administrative documents are used to wrap bread, fruit or peanuts you buy in the street.Some artisans also use metal waste to produce anything from chairs to kitchen utensils and childrenstoys.Plastic bags are used to make shoes. In the old days, worn tyres used to be made into sandals, but theseare much less popular now.