Wales nears 60 per cent recycling mark

Local authorities in Wales have reached their highest reuse, recycling and composting level yet, new figures reveal.

According to the ‘Local authority municipal waste management, April - June 2014’ statistics, the percentage of local authority (LA) waste prepared for reuse, recycling or composting in Wales continued to increase in the April to June quarter, reaching a record peak of 58 per cent this year (which is also the Welsh Government’s statutory recycling target for the year 2015/16).

The amount of residual waste produced per person also continued to decrease, falling by one kilogramme (to 53 kilogrammes per person) in the spring quarter. For more than half of LAs (15 of 22), residual household waste per dwelling decreased compared with April to June 2013, with the largest drops reported in Neath Port Talbot (20 per cent), Vale of Glamorgan (17 per cent) and Swansea (17 per cent).

However, for the first time, urban authorities as a whole produced the highest amount of residual household waste per dwelling, rather than rural households. The Welsh Government has not explained the reason for this change.

Despite the amount of residual waste falling, the total amount of local authority collected municipal waste generated in Wales increased, with the tonnage rising by three per cent (to 422,000 tonnes), compared to the same quarter in 2013.

The Welsh Government has attributed this increase to an increase in the amount of green waste produced as a ‘result of warmer than average temperatures reported by the Met Office for April to June 2014, compared to cooler than average temperatures during April to June 2013’.

Local authority breakdown

Wales nears 60 per cent recycling mark

As was the case for the recently released waste figures for the year 2013/14, Denbighshire County Council led the LA table with a municipal waste reuse, recycling and composting rate of 71 per cent. Pembrokeshire County Council followed in second with rate of 69 per cent, with Monmouthshire County Council coming close behind at 66 per cent.

Pembrokeshire also had the biggest increase (10 per cent) in its reuse/recycling/composting rate, closely followed by Ceredigion and Swansea councils (seven per cent increase for both).

This could be partly attributed to the change in both Pembrokeshire and Swansea from weekly to fortnightly kerbside residual waste collections October 2013. In addition, Swansea introduced a three bag per household, per fortnight policy.

Ceredigion County Council’s rise in the current figures could be due to the LA entering new contracts.

On the opposite end of the scale, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council had the lowest reuse/recycling/composting rate, and the largest fall in rates (when comparing this quarter with the same period last year), dropping six points to 47 per cent. This is despite the council switching to fortnightly collection of residual waste (and retaining weekly recycling collections) in June 2013. 

Speaking to Resource, a spokesperson from Rhondda Cynon Taf council explained: “The reason recycling decreased within Rhondda Cynon Taf over this period is due to a number of factors, including the company which it used to process its residual waste being no longer available to collect and sort it. This resulted in the waste being sent directly to landfill, which significantly decreased overall recycling figures. The council has been working with [waste disposal company] Amgen Cymru to look at alternative options and from August 2014 the council once again begun sending its black bag waste for processing. 

“To further improve this, the council recently introduced a new policy on side waste and in just three months the council is pleased to report that black bag waste has reduced by over 30 per cent. The council’s provisional second quarter data also indicates that it is now set to meet Welsh Government recycling targets of over 52 per cent. This showcases what residents can do when they reduce what they throw into their black bags and increase what they recycle in their clear bags.”

In March of this year, the council was awarded £952,000 from the Welsh Government’s £11.5 million Collaborative Change Programme, to invest in local recycling infrastructure and help boost their historically low recycling rates.

Reducing residual waste is ‘key to creating a high-recycling society’

Speaking of the figures as a whole, Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant said: “These quarterly figures show that we can continue to improve our recycling rate and send less waste to landfill. It’s great to see that some Welsh local authorities are demonstrating that our high recycling ambitions are within reach. 

“It’s encouraging that household waste that is not sent for recycling has continued to decrease to 53 kilogrammes per person, down one kilogramme compared to the same time last year. Reducing the amount of waste that can’t be recycled is key to creating a high-recycling society and reducing the amount that we send to landfill.

“These figures are thanks to the commitment of householders and local authorities. Working to make the best use of our resources will bring Wales economic and environmental benefits, and I intend to work with local authorities to help them to continue to improve.”

Wales is so far the only UK nation to have broken the 50 per cent recycling mark, with annual figures released earlier this month revealing that the country recycled, reused or composted 54.3 per cent in 2013/14.

The statistic, the highest annual figure that the country has ever achieved, marks a two per cent increase on 2012/13 figures, when local authorities recycled 52.3 per cent of municipal waste.

Welsh LAs are now must achieve a 58 per cent target for reuse/recycling/composting by 2015/16, rising to 70 per cent by 2025.

Read the full ‘Local authority municipal waste management, April - June 2014’statistics, or find out more about the 2013/14 figures.