Wales records another recycling leap to 62 per cent rate

Wales is closer than ever to reaching its 2025 recycling, reuse and composting target of 70 per cent, with the latest government statistics for July to September 2016 reporting a rate of 66 per cent, up five percentage points on the same quarter the previous year.

Wales eclipses national recycling targetLooking at the full 12 months to September, the country attained a 62 per cent recycling rate, a four per cent increase on the 12 months to September 2015, according to statistics released yesterday (28 February).

The results mean that if Wales was reported as a separate country, it would be the second best recycling nation in Europe, according to reported weight-based rates, behind Germany’s 66.1 per cent.

The Welsh Governments 2010 waste strategy, ‘Towards Zero Waste’ set the statutory target of recycling 70 per cent of waste by 2025, complemented by interim targets. The country exceeded the 2016/17 target of 58 per cent and is now only two per cent away from meeting its 2020 target of 64 per cent.

During the peak recycling season last year, (July to September) when green garden waste – the heaviest waste stream – is most prevalent, Wales’s recycling rate was at a high of 66 per cent, five per cent more than was reported for the same period in 2015. The report attributes higher recycling/reuse/composting rates during this period partly to an increase in the number of tourists to certain areas creating more waste.

Cardiff only authority to drop in recycling

Across the 22 local authorities, for the 12 months leading up to September 2016, the West Wales county of Ceredigion again reported the highest recycling rate in the country at 70 per cent, an increase of seven per cent from 2015, and meeting the national statutory recycling target a whole nine years early. Blaenau Gwent continued to record the lowest recycling rate at 52 per cent, but still managed to build on last year’s rate by three per cent, continuing a steady increase since introducing a new kerbside sort recycling system.

Cardiff saw a decrease in recycling by two per cent to 57 per cent, the only local authority to do so, though its summer quarter performance improved from 57 per cent to 61 in 2016.

Merthyr Tydfil continued its remarkable transformation, claiming the biggest increase in recycling, up 13 per cent from the year to September 2015, followed by Flintshire, Wrexham and Powys at 10 per cent each. Results released by the Welsh Government as recently as August 2015 showed that Merthyr had the joint-worst recycling rate in Wales, but in the intervening 18 months the authority, spurred on by a new service backed by the Welsh Government, has seen its rate rise from 51 to 68 per cent.

In January 2015, the council replaced every household’s 240-litre residual waste bin with a slim-lined 140-litre model as part of the first step of overhauling the county’s recycling system to produce results that would enable the council to hit Welsh Government recycling targets. By limiting the capacity in bins, the council hoped that residents would be compelled to make better use of the recycling service. In June 2015, the method of collecting recycling was also changed, with the old co-mingled service – where residents put all dry recycling in one box or sack – being replaced with a kerbside sort system that sees residents use separate containers for: paper; glass and cardboard; plastic and aluminium; and food waste.

The statistics showed that the rural authorities continue to have the higher rates compared with both valley and urban authorities.

Top three recycling rates:

  • Ceredigion – 70 per cent
  • Wrexham – 67 per cent
  • Pembrokeshire & Merthyr Tydfil – both at 66 per cent

Bottom three recycling rates:

  • Blaenau Gwent – 52 per cent
  • Cardiff – 57 per cent
  • Bridgend – 59 per cent

In contrast, according to figures released by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), only eight of the 376 waste collection authorities had recycling rates better than that of Bridgend – 20th of the 22 in Wales.

Earlier this week Keep Britain Tidy Deputy Chief Executive Richard McIlwain said that England should strongly consider implementing a collections blueprint similar to that employed by the Welsh Government to try and realise the recycling success that Wales has had. While the Welsh rate continues to rise and progress towards targets, England has been struggling to top 45 per cent for half a decade.

Decrease in residual waste

Residual household waste decreased by three per cent to 49 kilogrammes per person, compared with the same period in 2015, with 13 of 22 local authorities reporting a decrease. The largest decrease was in Powys, at 17 per cent since July to September 2015, and overall it was the valley authorities that showed the biggest decrease.

Wrexham showed an increase in residual household waste of 19 per cent, which the report attributes to an increase in kerbside waste collections, household waste recycling centres and street cleansing since 2015.

The Welsh Government’s statistics release can be read on the government’s website.

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