The UK produces about 330 million tonnes of waste a year, a quarter of which is from homes and business. The government is looking at a series of measures to reduce waste, including charging people who fail to recycle their rubbish and, in parts of the country, weekly bin collections have been reduced to fortnightly.
Councils in England have been told to increase recycling rates to 50% by 2020 - that is about double the current rate. An Open University survey suggests kerbside collection in England of recyclable items like glass and paper has already contributed to increased recycling rates.
The survey also shows more kerbside collections of garden waste have been introduced - with about a third of households in 2006 setting out compostable waste for collection, up from 27.6% in 2005.
Fortnightly bin collections, now being introduced in many areas, have also seen recycling rates rise. Defra figures for 2006 put North Kesteven district council in the East Midlands top of the municipal waste recycling league with a rate of 48.4%.
The United Kingdom still produces more waste per head of population than many of its European neighbours, with an average of 592kg (1,306lb), above the EU average of 577kg, (1,274lb). It also lags behind in the amount of waste recycled, with a UK average figure of 18% based on these figures, well below the EU average of 36.4%.
The Netherlands leads the way in Europe with a national recycling average of 64.4%, more than double the level achieved in England. Greece is the worst offender on landfill, dumping 90% of its municipal waste, with Portugal and the UK dumping about three-quarters of their waste.
The maps above show how recycling rates have increased in the past five years in England, Scotland and Wales. At the same time the actual amount of household waste collected has fallen slightly in England by 70,000 tonnes from 25.5m to 25.4m tonnes and in Scotland, which has seen a drop from 2.121m to 2.094m or 27,078 tonnes. In Wales the amount of waste collected has risen slightly over the same period from 1.488m tonnes to 1.542m tonnes, an increase of 53,908 tonnes.