Resource Use

Welsh councils recycle 55 per cent of waste


Welsh councils collectively recycled 55 per cent of their municipal waste in the first quarter of 2013/14, new figures show.

The provisional figures, released in the 'Local authority municipal waste management, April-June 2013' report yesterday (28 November), is five per cent higher than the recycling rate for the quarter before, and two per cent higher than the same quarter in 2012.

Further, the combined reuse, recycling, and composting rate of local authority municipal waste increased to 53 per cent for the 12 months to the end of June 2013, compared to 51 per cent for the 12 months to the end of June 2012.

The figures follow on from the news that Wales reached its first statutory recycling target of 52 per cent last year.

Recycling figure breakdown

Denbighshire retained its title as the best performing authority in terms of recycling for this quarter, sending 65 per cent of its municipal waste for processing, four per cent more than the year before.

Monmouthshire came close behind with 62 per cent, with Bridgend, Anglesey, Pembrokeshire, and Caerphilly following with 59 per cent.  

Rhondda Cynon Taf was the most improved authority, recycling nine per cent more of its municipal waste than the same quarter the year before (53 per cent up from 44 per cent). This follows on from a service change in June 2013, which saw the council start to collect residual waste on a fortnightly, rather than weekly, basis, as well as collect more materials for recycling.

Conversely, Cardiff saw its recycling levels drop five per cent on April-June 2012 levels. The council is currently seeking the views of the general public regarding its future provision of waste collection services.

Waste generation falling

Overall, the total amount of local authority municipal waste generated in Wales marginally decreased, with the tonnage falling by less than one per cent compared to the same quarter in 2012.

The residual household waste produced per person in Wales also fell, dropping from 55 kilogrammes (kgs) per person in April to June 2012 to 54 kgs in April to June 2012.

However, the figures aren’t directly comparable to those of the same period in the year before, as since April 2012, the definition of local authority municipal waste has changed. Under the previous quarterly definition, the total amount of local authority municipal waste generated included household and non-household waste, but excluded rubble, incinerator residues, matter from beach cleansing, plasterboard and abandoned vehicles, which is collected directly or from sites by local authorities. The new definition includes all household and non-household waste, and only excludes abandoned vehicles.

At the same time, Wales has also changed its definition of recycling. Previously, data was based on the amount of waste collected for reuse, recycling or composting. However, under the new definition this has changed to the amount sent for reuse, recycling or composting, in the hopes of achieving more accurate readings of recyclate levels.

Waste prevention is ‘key’

Speaking of the figures, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies, said: “Wales continues to lead the way for recycling in the UK. Last month, we hit our first annual statutory target of recycling 52 per cent of waste and we continue to see improvements. These excellent results are thanks to hard work from local councils and householders committed to recycling.

“I am particularly pleased to see that the amount of waste produced by local authorities and by individual householders continues to decrease. Prevention is key to sending less waste to landfill and meeting our Towards Zero Waste targets.”  

Future steps

Wales is the only country in the UK with self-imposed statutory recycling targets for municipal waste, which include reaching a 70 per cent recycling rate by 2025 and zero waste to landfill by 2050.

It is currently consulting on implementing an Environment Bill, which would ‘provide a modern statutory framework for the sustainable management of natural resources’ and ban some materials, including plastic, from landfill and energy-from-waste facilities.

Further, the Welsh Government could soon be given powers to control around £3 billion of tax revenue – including that of landfill tax – after the UK government accepted several proposals to bring about the devolution of several financial powers as part of a move to ‘give the Welsh Government the tools to make the right investments in Wales’.

Read the 'Local authority municipal waste management, April-June 2013' report.