Czechs best in EU at recycling plastic packaging

Anyone who's lived in the Czech Republic or even seen the recent Jan Sverak film "Vratne Lahve" or "Returnable Bottles" will probably have got the impression that Czechs are inveterate recyclers, a legacy perhaps of the communist era when resources were short and nothing was wasted. It seems that even in this age of mass consumption, Czechs are still reluctant to simply throw stuff away, not least when it comes to things like plastic bottles.

According to the European Commission, the Czechs are the best recyclers of plastic packaging in the EU. So does this mean that Czechs are now among the best waste managers in Europe? Coilin O'Connor has been finding out.

Paper, glass and plastic bottles. Having lived here for over a decade I've got into the Czech habit of sorting my rubbish in this way every week at the recycling bin on the corner of my street. I say "Czech" habit, because I never remember taking so many papers and bottles to recycling bins when I lived in Ireland.

The Czechs' fondness for recycling seems to have been at least partly confirmed by the European Commission, which this week released data showing that the Czechs were number one in the EU when it came to recycling plastic packaging and that 69% percent of the population went to the trouble of sorting their waste.

But according to Ivo Kropacek from the Czech branch of Friends of the Earth, Czechs may be good at separating plastic from the rest of their rubbish, but that this is nothing for environmentalists to get excited about:

"We are not first in waste recycling. We are only first when it comes to plastic packaging. One third of all waste that people produce is bio-waste and only thirteen percent of waste is plastic. Plastic packaging is only part of this thirteen percent. So we are number one in Europe when it comes to separating about ten percent of our waste."

Ivo Kropacek says that Czechs actually lag far behind other European countries when it comes to thoroughly sorting and recycling their waste.

"We need to separate all of our waste like Austria, which has a separation ratio of about fifty percent like Germany and Belgium. The Czech Republic has a separation of about sixteen percent. Admittedly, we are first when it comes to plastic packaging but we have a lot of work to do to start sorting all our waste."

According to Ivo Kropacek, a swathe of new measures like doorstep recycling, higher landfill taxes and municipal composting schemes need to be introduced for the Czech Republic to reach western European levels of recycling - especially when it comes to bio-waste or food waste - and that it is simply not enough for Czechs to bring their empty bottles every week to the recycling bin.