Grubby island with crowded population

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BRITAIN may not be the dirty man of Europe, but it is one of the grubbiest and most crowded countries, according to Europe in Figures. Its pollution levels are among the worst, it produces too much waste and its recycling record is unimpressive.

The United Kingdom generates 10,322kg (10 tons) of carbon dioxide per inhabitant, compared with an EC average of 8,767kg (8.62 tons). This is not the worst record on CO2 ; Luxemburg produces 23,709kg (23 tons) and Germany 12,056kg (11.86 tons) - but Britain also does badly on pollutants such as sulphur oxide, produced by coal-burning power-stations and a source of acid rain, and nitrogen oxides, caused by traffic.

Total British emissions of sulphur oxides in 1988 were 3.8 million tons, by far the highest figure in Europe. In the same year, British emissions of nitrogen oxides were 2.6 million tons, second only to Germany's 2.9 million tons.

Germany, however, while a formidable polluter, has a better record in putting things right - for instance in recycling and sewage disposal. Britain produces 357kg (787lb) of household waste a year per inhabitant, compared with an EC average of 327kg (721lb), French and German figures of 303kg (668lb) and 331kg (729lb) respectively, and a US figure of 864kg (1,905lb).

Of the six countries for which data is available, Britain recycles the least paper and cardboard - 27 per cent compared with 50.3 per cent in the Netherlands and 41.2 per cent in Germany. Of 10 countries for which there is data on glass recycling, only the Irish Republic, with 8 per cent, does worse than the United Kingdom, which recycles 13 per cent. The table is headed by the Netherlands, with 62 per cent.

During the 1980s, Germany overtook Britain in providing a mains sewerage network. By 1985, 83 per cent of Britons were served by sewage treatment plants compared with 86.5 per cent of Germans. The highest figure, 91 per cent, was in Denmark. Only 9 per cent of Portuguese were linked to a sewage plant.

One positive point for the United Kingdom is its road safety record. It has fewer cars per 1,000 inhabitants than the EC average and the lowest number of road deaths per 10,000 people. It also only generates 19.7 per cent of its energy from nuclear power, compared with 74.5 per cent in France and an EC figure of 34.8 per cent.

Britain's population density, at 235 per square kilometre, is the fourth highest in the EC, behind the Netherlands, Belgium and pre-unification Germany. France and the Irish Republic are the only countries where enough children are being born to maintain their populations at present levels in the long term; the United Kingdom falls slightly short.