Wales doubles recycling rates in 10 years

Wales continues to lead the UK on waste management as new recycling figures for this year reveal that the country has doubled the amount of waste it has recycled over the past decade.

The average combined reuse, recycling and composting rate across Wales’ 22 Local Authorities has jumped to 60%, exceeding a national 58% recycling target for 2015/2016. This figure represents an increase of 4% from last year’s final figures and a 30% increase of the baseline figures just over nine years ago.

Wales remains on track to meet its ambitious 70% recycling target by 2025.

Welcoming the statistics, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said: “Wales leads the way in the UK when it comes to recycling, with these latest figures confirming we are exceeding the ambitious 58% target. This is encouraging as it also suggests we are well on track to meet our 70% target by 2025.

“This achievement is thanks to Local Authorities and householders’ commitment to recycling, together we can continue to make improvements. I’d like to see Wales become Europe’s best recycling nation and when looking at how far we have come since 2006 I believe this is something we can and will achieve.”

Towards Zero Waste

The new figures also show the amount of municipal waste sent to landfills by local authorities across Wales has seen an overall reduction of 80% since 2006-07, sending more than 170,000 tonnes of waste to landfill in 2015-2016 – 58% less than the national legal allowance of 410,000 tonnes. All local authorities in the country managed to achieve their allocated allowance.

Out of the 22 authorities, 19 either met or exceeded the current 58% target established as part of the countries ‘Toward Zero Waste’ strategy. Those authorities that are struggling to achieve this target have received additional funding through the Government’s Collaborative Change Programme. The three failing authorities will be contacted by the Cabinet Secretary and asked to explain what led to them being unable to achieve these targets and whether there were any serious mitigating factors involved before deciding to impose penalties for these areas.

The Welsh Government keeps a close collaborative relationship with local governments in order to achieve its impressive national recycling rates. The Collaborative Change Programme, for example, is used to establish improvements to collection services and depot facilities and continue to support them to reach the recycling targets over the next few years.

Collaborative action

With Wales at the forefront of the UKs recycling efforts, questions are mounting as to why the rest of the UK is lagging behind. Based on last year’s UK-wide recycling waste from households, there is a 10-14% difference between Wales’ recycling rates and the rest of the home nations.

Two public surveys recently highlighted the need for greater standardisation and co-operation between retailers and policymakers in order to improve the UK’s general recycling performance.

In Scotland, new collaborative efforts have been undertaken in light of the country’s recycling performance – which is the lowest in the UK. Scotland is taking a more private-sector focused approach with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, vowing to help regulate businesses and reduce all forms of waste beyond compliance standards.

Alex Baldwin

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