Cardiff facing £21 million in fines unless action taken to increase recycling

Cardiff faces fines totalling up to £21 million unless it takes action to recycle an additional 32,000 tonnes of waste a year in order to meet 2020 recycling targets, according to a council report.

The Welsh government set the first statutory recycling targets in the UK back in 2010, with Cardiff achieving the 58 per cent target for 2016/17, up from 39 per cent in 2010, but the Welsh capital now faces a real challenge to reach the 2019/20 target of 64 per cent and the 2024/25 target of 70 per cent.

The current 58 per cent recycling rate lags some way behind the overall picture in Wales, which reached 64 per cent (its 2020 recycling target) three years early, it was announced last month.

Due to the predicted growth in waste and population in the city, Cardiff will need to recycle around 96,000 tonnes more waste cumulatively over the next three years, with the report by the council’s environmental scrutiny committee stating that the ‘do nothing option’ is not an option for Cardiff.

Cardiff facing £21 million in fines unless recycling performance improves

Any local authority that does not reach the targets is supposed to receive fines of £200 for every tonne short of the target they are. On that basis, the report calculates that Cardiff stands to rack up £21 million in fines between now and 2020.

However, no authority has yet been penalised, with Newport and Torfaen both falling short at 57 per cent last year and Blaenau Gwent propped up the Welsh recycling league table recycling with a paltry by comparison 49 per cent. None of the authorities were fined after the Welsh government said that it expected their performance to improve, and Newport and Torfaen have since recovered to register recycling rates for this year of 61 and 64 per cent respectively, while Blaenau Gwent has surged back to achieve a recycling rate of 57 per cent.

Cardiff's recycling and waste strategy

The report references Cardiff’s Recycling and Waste Management Strategy 2015, which outlines how Cardiff can make recycling improvements up to 2018. The aims of the strategy are to minimise waste creation, raise awareness among the public of the need to reduce waste, maximise recycling and reuse, minimise the amount of waste sent to disposal, work with local partner organisations to deliver local and regional benefits, provide a cost-efficient service, and to operate sustainable waste management services.

The majority of the initiatives designed to take Cardiff to 58 per cent recycling have been delivered, with food waste collections rolled out across the city and the capacity of black bins for residual waste being reduced from 240 litres to 140 litres, and the report calls for further planning for additional changes to make up the predicted shortfall in recycling.

The report also contains the outlines of plans by Cardiff council to explore the possibility of constructing a regional recycling facility to handle paper, card, plastics, glass and metals, due to the lack of ‘large-scale’ sorting facilities for dry recycling in Wales, by sounding out interest from neighbouring councils and the ‘market-appetite’, as well as to explore the business case for moving to kerbside recycling as opposed to the current co-mingled system employed by the council.

There is a basis for a regional facility in Cardiff’s Energy Recovery Facility, which diverts 95 per cent of South Wales’ residual waste from landfill and produces 30 megawatts of energy a year.

A Cardiff council spokesperson spoke to the BBC, saying: "The council works with five local authorities to treat non-recyclable waste to create green energy through an Energy Recovery Facility.

"This partnership gives significant benefits, as by working together through economies of scale, the price for each of the partners to treat this waste is lower than if they worked individually.

"Using the same logic, Cardiff is currently proposing to carry out a feasibility study to explore the possibility of a partnership for dry recyclables but no decision has been made."

A full copy of the council report can be found on the Cardiff Council website.

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