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Welsh landfill costs fall £13m in four years

Welsh landfill costs fall £13m in four years
The annual landfill cost to Welsh local authorities (LAs) has dropped by more than £13 million since 2011/12, equating to a decrease of more than 23 per cent, figures obtained by BBC Wales have found.

The investigation also stated that the total weight of landfill has dropped from 641,00 tonnes in 2012/13 to 450,000 tonnes in 2014/15 – a 30 per cent drop in three years.

Landfill tax was introduced in 1996 at £7 per tonne and rose by £8 per year until 2014/15, when active waste was charged at £80 per tonne, while inactive waste, such as rocks or soil, cost £2.50 per tonne. The tax, which now rises in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI), is currently set at £82.60/£2.60 and will rise next year to £84.40/£2.65 in 2016/17. The Welsh Government is also currently developing a landfill disposals tax, which will replace the landfill tax when it is devolved in 2018.

LA reductions

The largest reduction in landfill cost was experienced in Torfaen, a small county borough in the south of the country, though its 89 per cent decrease from £2,515,100 in 2011/12 to £269,100 in 2014/15 was largely due to its move to send the bulk of its residual waste to energy from waste in 2013/14. In 2014/15, this treatment cost the council £2,054,500, giving a total residual waste treatment cost of £2,323,600, an eight per cent decrease on its 2011/2012 figure.

Blaenau Gwent had the second largest reduction (80 per cent), cutting landfill costs from £598,000 to £114,600 over the four years. This was despite costs more than doubling to £1,400,700 in 2012/13.   

The other LAs to cut their landfill costs by more than half were Pembrokeshire (62 per cent), Flintshire (54 per cent) and Carmarthenshire (53 per cent).

Despite the overall decrease across Wales, four LAs actually increased their landfill costs over the four-year period. Conwy (26 per cent increase), Denbighshire (seven per cent increase) and Gwynedd (18 per cent increase) all told the BBC that the rise was attributable to increases in the landfill tax, rather than an increase in waste.

The Vale of Glamorgan saw its rate rise by two per cent from £3,007,000 to £3,066,800, but did not offer the same reasoning.

Cardiff, the most populous LA despite being only the 19th largest in terms of area, paid the most for landfill disposal in 2011/12, with a cost of £7,450,400, but cut this by 29 per cent to £5,261,800 in 2014/15.

Targets ‘paying dividends’

National Resources Minister Carl Sargeant told the BBC: “As the only UK nation to set statutory recycling targets, our approach is clearly paying dividends.”

Wales hit a recycling rate of 57 per cent last year, significantly higher than the UK average of 45 per cent and England’s rate of 44 per cent.

The Welsh Government’s Towards Zero Waste strategy has seen LAs set ambitious targets for recycling their municipal waste, with fines being threatened to any that do not recycle 58 per cent of municipal waste in 2015/16, 64 per cent by 2019/20 and 70 per cent by 2024/25.

Several Welsh LAs have subsequently significantly altered their collection systems to try to divert waste from the residual waste stream and towards recycling. Gwynedd Council has already implemented a three-weekly waste collection, with Anglesey likely to follow later this year. Bridgend is currently consulting on a possible monthly bin collection while Cardiff and Blaenau Gwent have also considered decreasing the frequency of residual waste collections in the past.

The Welsh Government has already established a Collection Blueprint, launched in 2011, which encourages the ‘use of ‘modern’ kerbside sort approaches that see households given a combination of boxes and bags or two or more boxes to be stacked. Eunomia Research & Consulting is currently undertaking an independent review of the blueprint to take in account new developments in equipment.

Full landfill cost figures for each Welsh LA can be found on the BBC’s website.

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