Home nations continue to set waste strategy example for England

WRAP Cymru has published the outcomes of a "ground-breaking" waste analysis project highlighting strong national recycling performances, a week after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) vowed to help regulated businesses to reduce all forms of waste beyond compliance standards.

Research by independent environment consultancy business Resource Futures on behalf of the Welsh Government was conducted in an attempt to inform councils on how to achieve the nation’s 70% recycling target of 70% by 2025, with a view to making Wales a zero-waste nation by 2050.

The project captured data on significant waste streams including kerbside collections and food waste in all 22 Welsh authorities over summer and winter of 2015, revealing that total of 1.55m tonnes of municipal waste was collected and 856,000 tonnes was recycled across Wales during the 2014/15 financial year.

“This is a ground-breaking waste analysis project that the Welsh Government has led on,” Resource Futures’ senior consultant Agnes Chruszcz said. “Understanding what future waste strategies can and should be able to deliver can only be achieved through detailed knowledge and interpretation of material stream data.”

‘Home nation leader’

The Welsh Assembly recently released new recycling figures highlighting that seven councils had achieved a 58% recycling rate, the national target that all councils are expected to hit by the end of 2016.

Much of Wales’ recycling rate increases can be put down to the country’s Landfill Allowance Scheme (LAS), which requires waste disposal authorities to limit the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that they send to landfill. Since the scheme started in 2004, Welsh local authorities have achieved a 70% reduction in the amount of biodegradable waste they landfill.

“Delivering this project meant we had to undertake significant sampling for the main components of the municipal waste stream to really establish baseline data for the authorities to use.,” Chruszcz said. “Wales is currently the home nation leader in terms of recycling performance and preparatory work such as this waste analysis project means it is in good shape to achieve its ambitions.”

One Planet Prosperity

WRAP Cymru project results come a week after SEPA published its new environmental regulation strategy, which will set about the task of helping regulated businesses reduce all forms of waste beyond compliance standards in ways that improves profitability and long-term viability.

The “One Planet Prosperity – Our Regulatory Strategy” report – released after SEPA’s chief executive warned the country’s industries and farmers that their waste is the biggest threat to the environment – also outlines the regulator’s focus on waste crime through partnerships working with other enforcement agencies to disrupt serious organised crime.

The new strategy was yesterday (16 August) welcomed by the Recycling Association, which emphasised the importance for regulators across the UK to enforce the rules consistently.

The Recycling Association’s chief executive Simon Ellin said: “Organised crime not only has an impact on the legitimate businesses that lose trade to illegal operators, but it can also unfairly damage the reputation of an entire industry. Members of The Recycling Association will always support ways to crack down on illegal operators.

“But The Recycling Association would also like to see SEPA work with the other UK environment agencies to ensure a consistent approach when it comes to exports. It remains the case that guidance on the amount of out throw allowed on exports is unclear, but legitimate exporters can still face prosecution and huge legal bills from the environment agencies on this guidance.”

‘Hang its head in shame’

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government unveiled its first ever circular economy strategy, outlining bold plans to significantly reduce waste in the food and construction sectors and promote recycling and reuse across the country.

While Wales and Scotland continue to succeed in improving waste performance, England’s recycling rates have slowed significantly over the past three years. 

Charity Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) recently claimed that England should “hang its head in shame” over its lack of progress on recycling, having failed to increase a 44% recycling rate over the last two years, remaining well below the UK’s 50% target.

But through the efforts from local authorities and WRAP, England’s recycling rates could be boosted, as phase two of the organisation’s plan looks to investigate a range of waste collection models to boost recycling levels that have increased by just 0.4% in two years.

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie