The 10 cities that recycle the most in the world

The following are the top ten cities globally for recycling, showcasing both well-known and lesser-known destinations, along with five cities still striving to improve.

The importance of recycling is firmly ingrained in the public consciousness worldwide. People are knowledgeable about what can be recycled and often participate in recycling schemes where available.

However, the impact extends beyond individual actions to larger entities like neighborhoods, cities, and countries. Policy decisions greatly influence recycling rates, and some cities lead the charge with innovative approaches to minimize waste. has identified the top ten cities globally for recycling, showcasing both well-known and lesser-known destinations, along with five cities still striving to improve.

Vancouver tops the list of recycling cities

Vancouver, renowned as Canada’s leader in waste management initiatives, has significantly boosted its recycling rate from 40% to over 60% in slightly more than ten years, aiming to reach an impressive 80% target.

The city achieves this remarkable feat by integrating recycling into the circular economy framework and implementing inventive programs that incentivize businesses to engage in upcycling or reusing materials.

Singapore City

Singapore stands out for its remarkably low per capita landfill waste production, amounting to just 307kg annually, a stark contrast to the regional average of 380kg in Asia.

With an ambitious target of recycling 70% of its waste by 2030, Singapore has taken proactive measures to enhance business involvement by implementing legislation that holds companies accountable for the waste they generate and use.


Copenhagen is striving for a notable 70% recycling rate, leveraging the enthusiastic support of its citizens for waste reduction initiatives, as highlighted by Circular Copenhagen.

The city facilitates waste management through convenient door-to-door collections, ensuring ease of participation for its residents. Moreover, Copenhagen is steadfastly progressing towards its ambitious goal of transforming into a zero-waste municipality by 2050.


Despite facing challenges with waste collections during the frigid winter months, Helsinki manages to recycle a commendable 58% of its waste. The city has been actively enhancing its eco-friendly initiatives, such as implementing green taxis, as noted in recent reports.

Furthermore, Helsinki has introduced schemes to recycle construction waste and has implemented a much-needed plastics recycling program to further bolster its environmental efforts.


Honored with the prestigious title of Sustainable City in 2010, Curitiba in Brazil has ingrained environmental consciousness into its urban planning. An article in Smart Cities Connect delves into its innovative approaches. Such as prioritizing pedestrians over cars, creating interconnected green spaces, and notably, establishing a ‘green exchange’ program.

This initiative enables the city’s economically disadvantaged residents to exchange collected recyclable materials, with two-thirds of them being recycled, for fresh food, showcasing an impressive commitment to sustainability and social welfare.


Despite facing resource constraints, the city of Delhi has made significant strides in waste reduction efforts. One notable initiative is the establishment of ‘eco-clubs’ in over a thousand schools, aimed at instilling the importance of environmental protection among young citizens.

This proactive approach not only educates the youth. But also reinforces Delhi’s existing culture of ‘careful consumption’ and policies focused on waste reduction.

Los Angeles

Renowned globally, Los Angeles on the West Coast transcends its reputation for film stars and glamour. According to Columbia Climate School, the city boasts an impressive waste recycling rate of almost 80%, surpassing that of many European cities.

This achievement is attributed to a comprehensive city-wide education campaign and tax concessions offered to companies engaged in recycling. LA’s steadfast commitment to a zero-waste initiative underscores its dedication to environmental sustainability.


Leeds demonstrates a commendable commitment to recycling, diverting approximately 40% of its waste from landfills. One of its standout initiatives is the ‘Leeds by Example’ scheme, which has deployed over 180 on-street recycling points throughout the city.

These efforts have significantly boosted recycling rates in the city center, nearly tripling them to 49%. Notably, the scheme represents the largest endeavor in the UK to enhance the recycling rates of food and drink packaging, serving as a model for other cities across the country to follow suit.


Vienna stands out as an innovator in waste management by maintaining its waste processing entirely within the city limits, instead of outsourcing it elsewhere. Since the inception of recycling plants in the 1980s, Vienna has implemented widespread distribution of recycling containers for metals, plastics, and glass across the city.

While Austria as a whole still has progress to make in terms of recycling practices, Vienna demonstrates continuous improvement in this area with each passing year.


Remaining within the Scandinavian region, Stockholm shines as a remarkable exemplar of good waste management practices in Europe, having experienced a notable transformation. As reported by, in 2019, 50% of the city’s waste was converted into energy, demonstrating a commitment to sustainable waste management.

Additionally, Stockholm boasts an impressive recycling rate of 84% for cans and bottles. Notably, clothing recycling plays a significant role in the city’s economy, with the homegrown fashion giant H&M offering garment recycling services in its Stockholm stores, further contributing to the city’s sustainable ethos.

Read also: The world’s best zero waste influencers to follow

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