Corbyn incorrectly says UK has worst recycling in the EU

3 December 2019
What was claimed

The UK wastes more food than any other country in Europe.

Our verdict

Data on food waste is not up to date. The latest data suggests the UK does not have the highest level of food waste per person.

What was claimed

The UK has the lowest recycling rate in Europe.

Our verdict

Incorrect. The UK’s recycling rate is about average among EU countries.

“We waste more food than any other country in Europe and we have… the lowest levels of recycling.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 18 November 2019

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry on Monday, Jeremy Corbyn told the audience that the UK wastes more food than any other country in Europe and has the lowest rate of recycling.

The claim on recycling is incorrect and the claim about food waste is only correct if you look at total food waste, not food waste per person, which is the more appropriate measure. The food waste claim also seems to be based on data from 2006 and we’ve asked Labour for more details on Mr Corbyn’s sources.

Data from the European Commission shows the UK’s recycling rate is around average among the 28 EU member states with 44% of waste being recycled in 2017.

Food waste data is hard to compare, because countries collect data using different methodologies, and, for some countries, data is not available.

The latest data from the EU that we’ve seen dates to 2006. In 2006 the UK produced the most food waste in total compared to any other EU country.

But as the UK also has one of the largest populations in the EU this is perhaps unsurprising. A better measure is to look at how much food waste is recycled per person. Looked at this way the UK has the sixth-highest level of food waste. 

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