Wales surpasses national recycling target

Wales eclipses national recycling targetThe Welsh recycling rate for local authority (LA) collected municipal waste rose to 59 per cent for the 12 months to December 2015, meeting its target of 58 per cent for the end of the 2015/16 financial year.

The rate, which includes reuse and composting, constitutes a two percentage point increase on the 56 per cent recorded at the same time in 2014.

As part of its ‘Towards Zero Waste’ strategy, the Welsh Government has set a series of increasing recycling targets for LAs to meet, culminating in a 70 per cent recycling rate in 2024/25. At the end of this March, LAs were required to meet a 58 per cent target or face fines of £200 for every tonne by which the target was missed.

Although the provisional figures for December 2015, released by the Welsh Government today (1 June), show that nine of the 22 Welsh LAs had not yet reached the target, with one reporting quarter still to go before the target deadline, the national average has already exceeded the government’s goal.

Of those nine authorities, three recorded a rate of 57 per cent in December 2015 and three a rate of 56 per cent. Only Methyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent, which have both recently rolled out new recycling services, are more than three percentage points off the target. 

The data for December shows a strong improvement among the LAs, as according to the previous data release, published in February, only eight of the 22 had met the target by September 2015, a number that has now increased to 13.

Cardiff biggest mover among LAs

Amongst the LAs, Cardiff posted the biggest improvement from December 2014 to 2015, going from 48 per cent to 61 per cent. At the end of July 2015, the City of Cardiff Council introduced a new waste service that limited the amount of residual waste residents can put out for collection and slimmed residual waste bins from 240 to 180 litres. At the time, the council said that it hoped that the new service would enable it to meet the 58 per cent target, as for every one per cent that it missed by, the amount of waste it generated meant it would be fined £400,000.

The LA with the highest recycling rate in the 12 months to the end of December 2015 was the rural authority of Pembrokeshire (64 per cent). The Vale of Glamorgan (63 per cent) was second, having increased its rate from 56 per cent in December 2014, with Denbighshire (62 per cent) third.

Blaenau Gwent had the lowest rate, falling to 49 per cent, from a rate of 51 per cent a year earlier. The council’s new recycling system, involving stackable boxes, had to be reconfigured in parts of the county from January this year, after its October rollout was met with some protests from residents who felt that the service was not suitable for areas with small back lanes.

Waste generation increases

During October to December 2015, the amount of LA collected waste generated increased by two per cent to 369,400 tonnes compared to 361,100 tonnes in the same quarter in 2014.

Total Local Authority Municipal Waste Generated in Wales (Quarterly)
Though seasonal, the total amount of municipal waste generated has generally decreased over time, with funding from the Welsh Government under the Collaborative Change Programme assisting LAs to meet targets for minimising municipal waste, limiting landfill and increasing recycling and composting.

Just under half of local authorities across Wales (10 of the 22) reported a decrease in the total LA collected municipal waste during October to December 2015 compared with the same quarter a year earlier. The largest decreases were in Carmarthenshire (down 14 per cent), followed by Powys (down eight per cent). The largest increase came in Caerphilly (20 per cent), followed by Rhondda Cynon Taf, with an increase of 12 per cent.

The data also shows large variation in the amount of residual waste generated per person, which across Wales averaged 50 kilogrammes (kg) per person for the quarter, up two per cent from the December 2014 figure.

In Caerphilly, the figure rose from 55kg per person to 73, while the average Rhondda Cynon Taf resident created 62kg, compared to 43kg in the same quarter in 2014 – an increase of 46 per cent.

The largest decrease was in Powys (down 29 per cent to 36kg per person), followed by Ceredigion (down by 25 per cent to 37kg per person).

The full set of statistics can be viewed on the Welsh Government’s website.