Which countries have the highest recycling rates in the world?

In a bid to combat climate change, countries all over the world have made a commitment towards becoming more sustainable. Many have become part of the net zero initiative, aiming to reduce greenhouse gasses as much as possible. This strategy is designed to help maintain natural habitats, protect biodiversity, ensure the health of oceans and forests and create a healthier, less-polluted future for humans and animals. However, it’s not enough to want to see these changes. There need to be practical solutions that follow the initiative.

Ideally, emissions should be reduced by approximately 50% by 2030, and the world should achieve net zero by 2050 to keep temperatures from rising even further and creating an ecological disaster. One of the topics of high concern is the increased production of waste. People consume and throw away much more than they used to in the past, including all types of goods, from food to textiles and from paper to furniture. Reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills would have a highly beneficial effect on reducing pollution levels and improving air and water quality, contributing to a higher quality of life for the general public.

Recycling is the best way to achieve this since it means that used products can be repurposed and reused and given new life. Some countries have already taken giant leaps when it comes to recycling, employing highly efficient methods and sending a large portion of their waste to recycling plants.


Germany is leading the way in recycling, with nearly 60% of the waste it produces every year is recycled. The process began in the early 1990s when the nation started conducting audits to help counteract the pressing issue of overflowing landfills. This led to the creation of The Green Dot, a recycling system that collects waste from households and businesses. Waste costs for businesses depend on the amount and weight that companies produce. Therefore, the lighter it is, the more cost-effective it becomes. This has also served as an incentive for companies to reduce and reuse the two other pillars of sustainability alongside recycling.

In 2019, the country introduced the German Packaging Act, a legislation form that aims to reduce the impact of packaging on the environment and help retailers promote greener products and solutions. Germany is also part of the Circular Economy Action plan, which aims to make sustainable markets the norm by restricting the production of single-use goods and promoting the manufacture of items made from durable, high-quality materials.


In France, the recycling rates for both domestic and industrial plastic waste are roughly similar, standing at nearly 30% each. When it comes to paper and cardboard, France is doing significantly better, with almost 61% ending up in recycling plants. Many companies use Miltek presse a carton, which allows them to dispose of the waste in an efficient and hygienic manner. Compared to 2022, the packaging recycling rate has increased by 3 points to 72% for all materials. Every year, roughly 54 kilograms are sorted per citizen, of which 20 include cardboard, plastic and metals, while the remaining 34 are glass packaging. Reports show that recycling avoids over 2 million tons of CO2.

South Korea 

South Korea has one of the highest recycling rates in the world. Nearly 80% of plastic waste is recycled. On average, the recycling rate for municipal waste stood at 60%. In South Korea, private companies collect and dispose of their trash. The country is also doing remarkably well in the field of food waste. The traditional cuisine features several side dishes, meaning that a lot of food would end up in the bin otherwise. However, South Korea has begun using innovative technologies such as smart bins to improve the food waste problem within households and the institutional environment.

In 2020, South Korean lawmakers introduced a new policy that aims to reduce the number of waste paper imports. The country is also set to reach the goal of collecting 100,000 tons of plastic bottles per year and separating the ones of domestic provenance from other recyclables.


Although the smallest country on the list, Wales’s results when it comes to recycling are nothing short of monumental. The country has a recycling rate of well over 50%. Wales has achieved this milestone due to the country’s government and policymakers that have sought to promote sustainable development across all fields and industries. In Wales, both individuals and business entities abide by similar rules of what can and cannot be recycled, and the country operates as a circular economy that promotes environmentally-conscious development.

In 2010, Wales established a target for 2025, where it hopes to achieve a rate of at least 70% in all recycled materials. However, since the country’s recycling system has already reached a 64% recycling rate in 2020, Wales can expect further development in the upcoming years. There are plans to ban the production and use of single-use plastics in the future.


If there’s something that Switzerland is known for, it is its exceptional natural landscapes. As such, it should come as no surprise that the country has taken definitive steps towards increasing its recycling rate. Many have touted the Swiss system as one of the best in the world due to its adherence to the “polluter pays” policy. This means that anyone, whether households, businesses or institutions, are obligated to pay for any waste they produce that cannot be recycled. Landfill waste is also taxed, and regular citizens are encouraged to recycle just as much as businesses.

Most household items can be recycled in Switzerland, including aluminum cans, electronic products and light bulbs.

Many other countries have high recycling rates, such as Japan, where 86% of the waste is recycled, while others are gradually moving towards a more sustainable future. In recent years, green practices have become more critical than ever. The impact of microplastics on human health, the emergence of a pandemic and the loss of biodiversity have urged people to make a commitment towards a greener, healthier future.

Interesting Related Article: “Four Benefits of Recycling for Businesses