Article 07/06/2023

Recycling around the world

By Luka Osborne

Recycling is like Pizza… no really hear me out! It’s universally recognised as a good thing, which is great because you can find it pretty much anywhere you go. Different places have their own unique twist, you’ll even find different rules and preferences from town-to-town – crunchy, soft, fully loaded, minimal ingredients. Ok, forget the pizza. Ranging from advanced to basic, most countries consider recycling an essential activity that helps to conserve resources, contribute to the circular economy and reduce the amount of waste in the environment.

Let’s have a look at recycling around the world, how it’s done differently, and which country is the most… supreme.

Recycling is different wherever you go. It’s one of those things that is simply a cultural practice. Let’s take a look at the different ways of recycling around the world.

Recycling practices vary widely across the world, with some countries only just implementing Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) measures and recycling separation. Recycling is a cultural practice, and new habits can take a while to form, so the best thing to do is to prepare the next generation. A little recycling is better than nothing, but by continuing to educate and inspire people about the benefits of recycling, we can all do our part to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Let’s take a look at the different recycling practices of various countries around the world, including their recycling bins, contamination rates, and container exchange programs.


Germany is often cited as one of the best countries in the world when it comes to recycling. The country has a complex recycling system that involves separating waste into various categories, including paper, glass, plastic, and metal. Germans are encouraged to separate their waste into different bins and are required to dispose of their waste responsibly. The country has a high recycling rate of over 60%, and it has one of the lowest contamination rates in the world. Germany’s container deposit system is also worth mentioning, as it has a well-established bottle deposit scheme that offers incentives for people who return their bottles, just like in most Australian states!


In Japan, recycling is taken seriously, and it is a fundamental part of the culture. The country has a sophisticated waste management system that involves separating waste into over ten different categories. The Japanese use different coloured bins to indicate the type of waste they are disposing of, and they are expected to follow strict guidelines to avoid contamination. The country has a fantastic recycling program some cities clocking in an 80% recovery rate, which is one of the highest in the world. Japan also has a container exchange program that encourages people to return their containers for recycling. Go Japan!

The United States

In the United States, recycling practices vary from state to state, with some states having more advanced recycling systems than others. The country has a single-stream recycling system, which means that all recyclable materials are collected in one bin and then sorted later. Unfortunately, this has led to a higher contamination rate than in other countries, as people often dispose of non-recyclable items in the same bin. However, some states have implemented successful container deposit schemes, such as California’s “bottle bill,” which encourages people to return their bottles for recycling. Nice one Cali!

The United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, recycling practices have improved over the years, but there’s still room for improvement. The country has a basic recycling system that involves separating waste into different categories, such as paper, glass, and plastic. However, the UK’s recycling rate is only around 45%, which is lower than many other developed countries. The country has also struggled with contamination, with some estimates suggesting that up to 10% of the waste in recycling bins is contaminated. Nevertheless, the UK has recently introduced container deposit schemes in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which could help to boost the country’s recycling efforts.

Recycling Around the World


So, how does Australia stack up against the rest of the world? Well, if Japan is a neopolitana classico, then maybe we’re ham and pineapple… Sadly, we’re not quite in the same boat as Germany or Japan, we have a 55% recycling rate, however, Australia continues to have large problems with contamination, with some councils reporting contamination up to 30%. Despite this, Australia has made significant strides in recent years with its recycling efforts. This is spearheaded by the implementation of container deposit schemes (CDS) in more states than ever, including Victoria. The country has several CDS programs in place, including the “Return and Earn” scheme in New South Wales and the “Containers for Change” scheme in Queensland. These schemes have been successful in increasing recycling rates, decreasing contamination, reducing litter, and promoting a cleaner environment. CDS recycling companies have played a vital role in this effort, making it easier for Australians to recycle their containers and earn rewards in the process while proving a straight channel to 100% Clean Recycling, contaminant free.

Want some more information about recycling in your area?

By partnering with individuals, businesses, and local councils, Envirobank has helped to create a sustainable recycling model that benefits both the environment and the community. Head here to see how you can up your recycling game.

By Luka Osborne