Top 5 Countries in the recycling industry

With an increase in world population, the demand for products is increasing everywhere. In the same manner, mountains of waste are generated around the world. Every year we dump billions of tons of waste, and the number goes on increasing every second. Different types of waste include solid waste, e-waste, plastic waste, and hazardous chemical waste. The hazardous waste could be generated in our homes, offices, hospitals, and industries. Management of waste is a challenge globally. Different countries use different techniques for waste management, such as reducing waste, reuse, and recycling. The recycling industry is an emerging industry in the world. Nevertheless, people have been debating for advantages of recycling. Does recycling save money and energy?

Manufacturing recyclables into new products has a great impact on a country’s economy. Recycling is not just recovering recyclable material; rather, it’s a complete economic system. This article would give an insight into the recycling industry around the world and how it contributes to minimizing the impact on the environment. Furthermore, the article would compare different recycling materials to have a better understanding.

The most profitable things to recycle are aluminum cans, scrap metals, car batteries, electronics, food packaging, and paper.

Recyclable Materials:


Recyclable materials include metals, paper, plastic, electronic waste, and industrial scrap. Recycling is always seen in the environmental term. However, it’s beyond that. Recycling of waste roughly provides 40 percent of raw material. So, it can be considered a treasure. Some types of waste require a large amount of energy to recycle, and recoverable material is very little. Moreover, recycling some type of waste releases a large number of pollutants in the environment. A misconception about recyclable material is that it’s of lower quality. However, this is not TRUE. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of recyclable products for food packaging after testing the recycled products.

According to the UN’s figure, 11.2 billion tons of solid waste were produced in 2018. This much number contributes to 5% of global Greenhouse gas emissions. Indiana has the largest recycling and reuse industry in the world. Recycling generates annual revenue of $19 billion. This figure shows the potential of the recycling industry.


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Top Countries with Recycling Practices:

  • Germany,
  • Austria,
  • South Korea,
  • Wales,
  • Switzerland. 


Germany has a recycling rate of 56.1%. Germany was the first country to create a dual recycling system for collecting waste. From a 3% recycling rate in 1991 to 56% in 2018, Germany has won the crown of the highest recycling rate. Germany is also involved in a circular economy to make the use of sustainable products a norm.



Austria followed the recycling practices with a rate of 53.8% in 2018. Every product is banned in a country that has carbon emissions of more than 5%. Austria has also managed the use of plastic bags by banning certain types in 2020.


South Korea

The next country on the list is South Korea, with a recycling rate of 53.7 percent. Over 10 million people in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, produced 9.189 million tons of waste daily. So, the management took initiatives such as Volume-based waste disposal fee (VBWF). This not only reduces waste generation but also encourages the collection of recyclable waste.



Wales is a small country with a recycling rate of 52.2% in the year 2018. The country set a target of a 70% recycling rate until 2025. And it’s working quite efficiently with 64% in 2019/2020.  



Finally, Switzerland has a recycling rate of 49.7% in 2018. “Polluter Pay Principle” is strictly followed in Switzerland. Thus companies made choices accordingly that produce less waste or biodegradable waste.

Other countries on the list are Italy, Belgium, Netherland, Slovenia, and Singapore.

Recycling Industries:

The most profitable things to recycle are aluminum cans, scrap metals, car batteries, electronics, food packaging, and paper. Recycling Aluminum cans are the most efficient practice. They are using recycled aluminum cans to make new cans that save 95% of energy. Recycling steel and tin cans save up to 74% of energy. Recycling paper saves 60 percent of energy. In contrast, the recycling of plastic waste saves one-third of energy use to produce a new plastic product. Recycling of Aluminum is very popular among all types of recycling materials. Thanks to the durability of metal and its recycling properties. 75% of all aluminum produced is still in use. An extensive system of recycling drink cans saves energy so emit less carbon dioxide. Approximately 0.5 tons of CO2 equivalent released on recycling 1 ton of aluminum. On the other hand, plastic has the highest carbon footprint. From its production to disposal – dumping, incineration, and recycling – plastic emit carbon dioxide. In this way, plastic production and recycling contribute to climate change. Moreover, 90.5% of plastic goes un-recycled in the year 2018. The recycling of plastic is less in practice because of its variety and a large amount of energy being used. Therefore, countries banned the use of plastic to WIPE-OUT it entirely.

Electronics is another industry whose waste is recyclable as the production of electronic products is increasing, so the waste is also increasing. Recycling e-waste is an emerging industry that saves valuable metals – Gold, Copper, Aluminum etc. – from waste. However, only 20% of e-waste is recycled, 80% ends up in landfills, and damages the environment and humans.



With an increase in population growth, the mountains of waste are generating. People are continuously producing waste and increase the impact on Earth. Waste accounts for 5% of GHGs emissions. For this increasing number of waste that humans produce every second, reuse and recycling are solutions. The recycling industry has the potential to recover valuable materials, energy and reduce carbon footprint. Germany is leading in recycling practices, followed by Austria and South Korea. Recycling is economically feasible as it generates revenue, provides employment and improves the environment by reducing emissions. The Recycling of Aluminum cans and e-waste are the two most profitable industries as compared to plastic. However, reducing the overuse of products is the only solution to combat global warming and climate change.