National Assembly Committee encouraged by recycling rates but more can be done

Published 18/12/2014   |   Last Updated 17/02/2015

The National Assembly for Wales Environment and Sustainability Committee inquiry has found that the response of the people of Wales to the challenge of recycling has been outstanding but more needs to be done to hit increasingly demanding targets.

As a nation, Wales is achieving one of the highest overall recycling rates in the European Union. It is the only country in the United Kingdom to have introduced statutory targets for recycling and the recycling rate for municipal waste has grown from 10% in 2005 to 54% in 2013/14.

Whilst there has been improvement in meeting recycling targets in Wales, 9 of the 22 local authorities did not achieve the 52 per cent target for 2012-13 and, according to data from March 2014, 3 local authorities are yet to achieve this target.

The Committee found that there are 22 different approaches to waste collection in Wales, underpinned by three broad recycling collection methods. No single method of collecting recyclable resources from householders offers a clear lead in performance, cost or efficiency and meeting weight-based targets for recycling must not detract from efforts to reduce waste.

A combination of good communication and engagement combined with a reduction in residual ('black bag') waste collections can further improve recycling rates. Whilst financial penalties could play a role in the future, it would be premature to consider their introduction until other avenues of encouragement have been exhausted.

The Committee has made a number of recommendations in the report about how the Welsh Government can continue to take steps towards recycling more, and raise some concerns about areas where progress could be improved.

Key recommendations for the Welsh Government are:

  • Commission an independent review of the 'collections blueprint' and the evidence it is based upon which should be completed by end of March 2016, so that it can help inform the approach taken by local authorities to achieving 2019/20 target of 64%.
  • Encourages collaboration between local authorities when renewing contracts for the provision of householder receptacles for collecting recyclable waste.
  • Works with local authorities to ensure that information on the destination of waste collected from householders is made publicly available.          
  • Investigate weight-based targets and whether they are having any unintended impact on reducing the ecological footprint of waste. This should be completed by the end of 2015.
  • Commission research into the relationship between projections for waste reduction; local authority income from waste; and the ability of local authorities to meet their recycling targets in the period to 2019/20 and then to 2024/25. This should be completed by the end of March 2016.
  • Investigate the case for resourcing a national 'broker' for the sale of recyclates from local authorities across Wales. It should publish its findings by the end of December 2015.
  • Considers the merits of investing in a national campaign to help drive higher rates of recycling. In doing this, it should also consider building on public engagement with recycling to promote understanding of the need to reduce the ecological footprint of waste and the importance of other measures, particularly waste reduction.

Alun Ffred Jones AM Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee said:

"Over three-thousand people responded to the inquiry, the largest response to any Assembly inquiry.

"We are encouraged and enthused by the level of engagement and passion that there is for continuing to recycle as much of our waste as possible.

"But we cannot be complacent about the challenge of meeting higher rates of recycling. More can be done by national and local government to encourage achievement of these higher rates"
"The fact that so many young people responded leaves us optimistic for the future and confident that, if the Welsh Government can get the infrastructure right, then Wales can continue to meet the challenge of creating less waste and recycling more."