Recycling on the up in Wales and methods are more consistent

14 Nov 2018 - 1:38pm

Greater collaboration between Welsh Government and councils at the heart of improvements, but costs and performance vary across Wales

The Welsh Government and councils in Wales are collaborating more, which is helping to make recycling methods in Wales more consistent and is encouraging more people to take part. That’s the conclusion of a report, by the Auditor General for Wales, which notes that the Welsh Government believes it has largely overcome a legacy of tensions and mistrust about its recommended approach to household recycling.

The report found that weight-based statutory targets has led to a much-improved recycling rate over time – to as high as 63.8% across Wales in 2016-17. But, the recycling rate decreased to 62.7% in 2017-18 due in part to better quality reporting. The latest recycling figures, published in October 2018, show that 20 of the 22 councils in Wales met or exceeded the statutory recycling target of 58% for 2017-18.

Reported recycling rates in 2017-18 varied from 56.0% in Blaenau Gwent to 72.25 in the Isle of Anglesey. However, comparing councils’ recycling performance based on the impact on carbon reduction can show different results. Weight-based targets have encouraged councils to recycle wastes that have a relatively small carbon impact per tonne collected.

The Welsh Government’s recommended approach to municipal recycling is set out in its ‘Collections Blueprint’. The number of councils conforming to this Blueprint increased from three in 2011-12 to 11 in 2016-17. The Welsh Government is expecting more councils to adopt this approach over the next few years, but some councils are still reluctant to change their kerbside collection method for recyclables.

Benchmarking has found that the cost of certain waste management services show surprising variation across Wales. However, there are a wide range of factors that influence these costs. The Welsh Government believes that, if applied optimally, its Collections Blueprint offers the most cost-effective overall means of collecting waste from households.

The report makes a number of recommendations to Welsh Government for improvement, including:

  • Working with councils to better understand the variations in spending on waste management services that are fundamentally the same;
  • Replacing or complementing current recycling targets to refocus on the waste resources that have the largest impact on carbon reduction and/or are scarce; and
  • Demonstrating that the wider benefits of municipal recycling cannot be more readily attained in other ways.

Auditor General, Adrian Crompton said: “This report acknowledges the improved picture for municipal recycling across Wales, thanks to better collaboration between the Welsh Government and councils. But there still needs to be a better understanding of service cost differences across Wales, especially given the wider financial pressures on councils. And it is time for the Welsh Government to consider whether the way recycling performance is measured tells the full story, including in the context of wider carbon reduction goals.”