Londoners’ plastic recycling could build The Shard 5 times

The amount of plastic waste sent for recycling by Londoners could build The Shard five times.

Beauty retailer, The Body Shop, wanted to show the “positive impact of plastic recycling efforts across the UK” by visualising regional plastic waste sent for recycling between April 2017 and March 2018 in comparison to the weight of “beloved UK landmarks”.

It says plastic pollution is “one of the biggest environmental concerns of our generation”, and the UK has made “huge progress” with 602,493 tonnes of plastic recycled between 2017 and 2018, according to recent figures.

Table 1: UK plastic recycling between March 2017 – April 2018

According to the research, the UK’s recycling habits have helped reduce over 600,000 tonnes of plastic that would either have gone to landfill or ended up as litter, potentially making their way into rivers and seas.

The Body Shop used data available from to research the amount of plastic sent to be recycled for every council in England, Northern Ireland and Wales during April 2017 – March 2018, and the amount of plastic sent to be recycled for every council in Scotland between January 2017 – December 2017.

This plastic contribution has helped the UK to achieve a household recycling rate of 43.2% in 2018 – 32% more than recycled in 2000 (11.2%).

Despite the vast improvement in recycling, however, it’s feared the UK will still not achieve the EU recycling target of 50% by 2020.

By 2030, the Body Shop is aiming to be using three types of plastic instead of the current 20 in its products, aiming to make them easier for customers to recycle. Byt this time it aims to collect 25% more packaging than it sells using its ‘Return. Recycle. Repeat.’ and other schemes.

The North of England

The great North, comprising of the North East and North West, recycled 81,000 tonnes of plastic waste between 2017-2018. Imagine this as 212 polystyrene Angels of the North or 24 PET Blackpool Towers popping up over the North West coastline.

Add in Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands and West Midlands into the mix. The scale of plastic is off the charts with 230,646 tonnes recycled. This equates to 37% of the total amount of plastic sent for recycling across the UK!

The image visualises what these recycling efforts would look like towering over Blackpool’s coastline.


Londoners recycled 63,969 tonnes of plastic 2017- 2018, which weighs around 500 London Buses, or we could build a plastic Wembley Stadium – twice.

Compared to the rest of the UK, London contributed to 11% to the UK’s plastic recycling efforts, coming in second to their Eastern neighbours which contributed 13% of all plastic recycling. This includes counties such as Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.


The amount of plastic waste sent to be recycled by the Welsh 2017- 2018 weighs 175% more than the Severn Bridge, that’s enough to rebuild the bridge almost twice-over; or even rebuild the Wales Millennium Centre six times the size than it currently stands in Cardiff.

Wales contributed to 7% of the total amount of plastic recycling across the UK (43,877 tonnes). However, Wales is still one of the top countries across Europe that is already meeting the EU target of a 50% general household recycling – Wales currently recycles 57.6%. This is 12% higher than the recycling rate in England.

The South of England

The South of England, that includes the West and East, recycled 19% of the UK’s total plastic waste; which is 116,333 tonnes April 2017- March 2018. This is 5% more than the North of England recycled in the same time frame.

To put this into perspective, the 67, 810 tonnes of plastic which was recycled in the South East of England would rebuild the British Airways i360 in Brighton 15 times over – making it 2,576 metres high.

In the South West, 48,522 tonnes of plastic was sent for recycling – the iconic Stonehenge could be rebuilt 143 times with that amount of plastic.


Due to the increase in recycling habits across Scotland, 2017 was the first year that the amount of waste recycled, 1.12 million tonnes, was larger than the 1.11 million tonnes of waste that was sent to landfill. Reflecting an increased household waste recycling rate from 32.5% in 2010 to 43.4% in 2017.

The amount of plastic the Scottish recycled during 2017 contributed to 9% of the total amount of plastic recycled in the UK (54,294 tonnes) – enough to rebuild The Forth Bridge.

These efforts to recycle plastic items during 2017, could rebuild the Falkirk Wheel 30 times larger than it currently is, or is the equivalent of 90 extra The Kelpies structures popping up across Grangemouth.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has contributed to 4% to the overall plastic recycling in the UK in the year 2017-2018. This may seem like a small percentage compared to the rest of the UK; however Northern Ireland has increased its recycling by almost 10% from 2010 to 2017. This is particularly significant in comparison to the recycling rates in England, which have only increased 4% during this same time period.

The plastic recycled amounted to 26,033 tonnes, between April 2017 and March 2018 – this could build the Albert Memorial Clock 13 times, which would dwarf the treasured landmark.

Landmark and recycled plastic comparisons were calculated by dividing the weight in tonnes of plastic recycled regionally by the weight in tonnes of the man-made landmark. 

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