Resource Use

Welsh recycling reaches 56 per cent

Welsh recycling reaches 56 per centThe rate of local authority (LA) reuse, recycling and composting in Wales rose to 56 per cent in 2014/15, according to figures released by the Welsh Government today (20 August).

The figure, based on provisional data covering the period of 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, represents a two-percentage-point increase on the previous year’s rate of 54 per cent.

A target of 70 per cent recycling/composting of municipal waste by 2024/25 has been set as part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Towards Zero Waste’ strategy, with interim statutory recycling targets (SRTs) for key years – the most recent of which was 52 per cent in 2012/13.

In the 2014/15 figures, Denbighshire was the LA with the highest recycling rate (65 per cent), with Pembrokeshire (65) and Monmouthshire (63) close behind. The lowest rate was attained by Blaenau Gwent, which recorded 50 per cent reuse, recycling and composting, down from 55 per cent in 2013/14.

Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil, which recorded a rate of 51 per cent, are the only LAs that reported rates below the 2012/13 SRT.

According to the Welsh Government, those LAs designated as rural reported an average rate of 59 per cent, while valley and urban authorities both had average rates of 55 per cent.

Results for the first quarter of 2015 were also released today, posting a January to March rate three percentage points better than the same period in 2014.

Cardiff’s Q1 results showed the greatest increase, with the capital 21-percentage-points up on its January-March 2014 performance (48 per cent to 69 per cent). However, the Welsh Government stated that these results should be treated with caution, as street sweepings collected throughout the 2013/14 and 2014/15 periods were not sent for recycling until January this year, therefore skewing the recycling performance of Cardiff for this most recent set of results.

Rhondda Cynon Taf, however, posted a 60 per cent rate for the first quarter compared to a 44 per cent rate for the corresponding period in 2014. This, the government says, can be credited to the council limiting the amount of residual waste that can be put out for kerbside collection, with fines for households that exceed the limit. The area also hosted a MetalMatters campaign in late 2014, which encouraged residents to recycle metal packaging.

Waste arisings falling

Alongside the increase in municipal recycling rates, the total amount of municipal waste generated in Wales has decreased, with the municipal waste produced in the first quarter of 2015 reported as 356,700 tonnes, a five per cent drop from the Q1 2014 figure of 373,700 tonnes.

The amount of residual household waste produced per person also fell, dropping by 12 per cent in Q1 2015 compared to the same period in 2014 (from 53kg per person to 47kg per person).

Again, Rhondda Cynon Taf was the big mover, lowering its per person residual waste generation from 65kg in January-March 2014 to just 37kg in the same months this year.

While most LAs either decreased or maintained their residual waste arisings, Ceredigion experienced a 27 per cent increase from 42kg per person to 54kg per person.

Still work to be done in meeting zero waste goal

Speaking following the publication of the figures, Welsh Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant said: “I’m very pleased to see the recycling rate continuing to increase in Wales. Local authorities have worked hard to encourage households to increase the amount they recycle, and that seems to be making a difference.  

“The decrease in non-recycled household waste is also very welcome news. To see this fall to 47 kilogrammes per person, for the January to March quarter of 2015, shows good progress in reducing this waste across Wales and means we have less than ever going to landfill.

“Although these figures are very welcome, there is still work to be done to reach our ambitious zero waste goal. We will continue to work with local authorities to improve their performance and help them reduce costs. It’s only by working together we can continue to make Wales a world leader in recycling.”

The figures have also been welcomed by industry, with the Welsh Environmental Services Association’s Recycling Policy Advisor, Jakob Rindegren, commenting: “The figures really demonstrate to the whole of the UK what is possible when a government combines a set of clear ambitious targets with an active, hands-on approach to seeing these targets met.”

Community buy-in required to keep recycling figures rising

Responding to the figures, Mal Williams, Executive Director of Zero Waste Wales, said: "It is particularly satisfying to see Wales making this progress at a time when England is flat-lining.  

"I would put that down to the fact that Welsh Government had the courage to set statutory recycling and waste reduction targets back in 2010 and has backed that up with sound guidance and resources to assist local authorities in achieving those targets.

"Work at Zero Waste Wales takes me to recycling operations around the world. I have visited many municipalities where between 80% and 90% recycling is currently being achieved. These places have one thing in common – ambitious targets and sound investment in collection systems. High levels of recycling are then achieved by the citizens who take those targets seriously.  There is massive community buy-in. Wales is moving steadily forward now that coherence in approach is appearing across the country.

"In 2003 Wales recycled 3% -we were bottom of the league in Europe – now, a dozen years later we are fourth, closing on third. That is a magnificent achievement. 

"In 2003 we buried nearly 1.8 million tonnes of valuable resources. This last year we buried or burned less than 675,000 tonnes saving over £83million in Landfill Tax alone." 

Learn more about the Welsh Government’s Towards Zero Waste strategy or Resource’s in-depth interview with Carl Sargeant from earlier in the year.

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