Sustainability

Wales reaches 52 per cent recycling target

Wales recycling

New provisional figures from the Environment Agency show that local authorities in Wales reached the country’s self-imposed target of recycling 52 per cent of waste in 2012/13.

The latest quarterly figures, for January to March 2013, complete the figures for the year 2012/13 and show that recycling rates in Wales increased by 0.15 per cent on the same period in the previous year (50 per cent).

Provisionally, the figures show that the combined reuse/recycling/composting rate of local authority municipal waste came in at 52 per cent for the 12 months to the end of March 2013, the statutory recycling target for 2012/13. This is two per cent more than the Welsh recycling rate for 2011/12

Wales’s Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, has congratulated Welsh householders and local authorities on their progress, saying: “I am delighted with the latest provisional figures which indicate that Wales achieved an impressive 52 per cent recycling between April 2012 and March 2013 and in doing so met its first statutory recycling target.”

The figures are a marked contrast to the latest provisional figures for England, which show that household recycling rates for the year ending December 2012 rose to 43.6 per cent, but accounted for a drop of 0.5 per drop on the same quarter the year before (October – December 2011), and almost seven per cent on the quarter before (July-September 2012).

Davies continued: “This is a real achievement and one that was born of hard work by local authorities and householders right across Wales. It means that Wales continues to be the top recycling nation in the UK by some distance and we should all take pride in this.”

Notably, the minister said that the Welsh authorities that missed the statutory recycling target (such as Swansea Council) would have their punitive fines 'waived'.

He said: "I am very conscious of the challenges local authorities face, so this year I have made the decision to waive fines for those authorities that have not met the targets.  I expect those councils that missed the target to participate fully in the Collaborative Change Programme and the Welsh Government will work constructively with councils to support their efforts.

“I appreciate that some of the councils that have not met their targets have nevertheless made really good progress. Powys, for example, has increased its recycling by nine percentage points on the previous year and it is this sort of progress that the Collaborative Change Programme can help councils to achieve.”  

He went on to say that the government will "continue work with all local authorities in Wales to ensure their recycling rates keep on getting better" and reach the country’s next statutory targets: 58 per cent recycling in 2015/16, 70 per cent by 2024/25, and zero waste to landfill by 2050.

Members of the industry have also welcomed the figures, with Mal Williams, Executive Director of Zero Waste Wales, saying: "Hitting a 52 per cent recycling rate not only says Wales is now, officially, more a recycling nation than a wasting nation... It also silences all those naysayers that have been claiming that recycling over 40 per cent simply can’t happen...

“I am proud to say that the people of Wales have not been duped by the 'wasters' and have embraced recycling fully... They have the common sense to know wasting is wrong and that our unthinking rush to the consumerism that creates millions of tonnes of waste every day is probably one of the biggest mistakes that we humans have made. We must put that right.”

Recycling figure details

According to the latest quarterly figures, the amount of Welsh local authority municipal waste produced is falling, with tonnages coming in four per cent lower between January and March 2013 than they did in the same period the year before. Further, the residual household waste produced per person in Wales also continued to decrease, falling to 53 kilogrammes per person in January to March 2013, from 55 kilogrammes per person in January to March 2012.

Of all the Welsh local authorities, Denbighshire had the highest recycling rate for both the period (56 per cent) and for the 12 months to March 2013 (58 per cent). Powys was the most improved local authority, increasing from a 41.9 per cent recycling rate for January and March 2012 to 51.6 per cent between January and March 2013.

For the 12 months ending March 2013, the valley authority of Rhondda Cynon Taf had the lowest recycling rate, coming in at 46 per cent, while Cardiff saw the biggest fall in recycling over corresponding quarters, with rates for January to March 2013 coming in 12 per cent lower than the same period the year before. It is not yet known whether councils coming under the target will face fines.

However, the Welsh Government says that although some local authorities may be showing a decrease in recycling rates, this may be due to changes of when waste is counted; previously data was based on the amount of waste collected for reuse, recycling or composting. In an attempt to get more accurate readings of recyclate levels, this has changed to the amount sent for reuse, recycling or composting processes. 

Final figures on waste collected and waste disposed will be published ‘at the end of the calendar year’.

Read the latest quarterly recycling figures.