Recycling and climate change – why every little doesn’t help

The annual carbon league tables for municipal waste recycling have been published here. Calculated by Eunomia, they tell us how much CO2 has been saved in Local Authority efforts to recycle waste. The CO2 saved by recycling in the average LA in England is 69kg CO2 equivalent per person per year.

We often talk about recycling as if it is important in the fight against climate change. Unfortunately, it isn’t. To put the numbers in context, here is a pie chart of the amount of CO2 saved per person by recycling in England, compared to the average CO2 emissions of a UK individual:

The consumption based CO2 emissions per person in 2016 were 11.95 tonnes (data from here). The amount of CO2 saved by recycling in 2017/2018 in England was 69kg, so reduced your carbon footprint by around 0.6%.

There are plenty of very good reasons to recycle, but please don’t think it means you are doing your bit for climate change.

Postscript: If you want to reduce your CO2 emissions, minimising flying, driving and red meat consumption, and investing in domestic energy efficiency measures are the significant things we can do in our day to day lives. More broadly, switching to an ethical bank account so that your money isn’t invested in companies you don’t approve of is worth considering. Beyond that, there’s not much we can do beyond changing our governments…

June 2020: since writing this I’ve posted a few more blogs on ‘stuff’, recycling and the Circular Economy. All linked to from here.

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