Recycling in Wales: One year in office

Written by: RWW | Published:

Minister for natural resources and food in Wales, Alun Davies reflects on his first year in the post, the achievements so far and what still needs to be done.

I’m pleased to say that in a year we have seen a great deal of progress within waste and recycling in Wales. Welsh households are recycling more than ever and we are seeing a marked decrease in the amount of food waste produced. Significant waste infrastructure projects are coming on stream and we have a bold waste prevention plan for Wales.  

If we are to continue to improve, then co-operation is key, so that everyone involved is clear on their responsibilities. To that end, I can confirm that we will be consulting on guidance on separate collections, ahead of the Waste Framework Directive requirements coming into force in January next year. I plan to launch the consultation by the end of April.  

This guidance should offer clarity on separate collections for local authorities and waste collection providers operating in Wales; I believe that all waste collection systems should operate in as simple a manner as possible. It is vital that all waste collection bodies are clear on their responsibilities so that they can plan for January 1, 2015.  

We have come a long way from 7% municipal recycling in 2000-2001. Wales met its first statutory recycling target in 2012/13, with 52% of municipal waste recycled and we are well on our way to meet our next target, of recycling, reusing or composting 58% of municipal waste by 2015/16.  

Collaborative Change Programme

Welsh councils have worked hard to improve their recycling rates as well as the quality of the recyclate they collect, and the Welsh government has supported them in this. 

So far, 16 councils have received funding and advice from the Collaborative Change Programme (CCP). 

Among them, Newport City Council has received just under a million pounds towards the purchase of land to extend a recycling facility, as well as to buy bins, recycling boxes and food caddies. Gwynedd council recently received £240,000 to buy stackable recycling boxes, to enable householders to separate materials for recycling.  

Looking ahead, we have to meet ambitious targets to divert waste from landfill and to continue to increase recycling in Wales, which we are addressing with increased support for local authorities. I extended the CCP budget for another two years, and increased funding by £500,000 to £4m a year. 

This programme is open to all Welsh local authorities and offers specialist advice to help them achieve recycling targets with efficient services, within their financial means. 

The funding will be used to invest in projects that improve recycling rates and the quality of the material collected.

I want to see councils sharing good ideas and good practice, so that they can improve performance as well as efficiency, given the financial challenges that they face.  

In terms of food waste, the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign run by Waste Awareness Wales in conjunction with WRAP is having a positive impact.  

We know that the amount of food and drink waste has been reducing; Welsh consumers saved themselves £160m in 2012 alone by reducing avoidable food waste. However we should be making the best use of that food waste which we cannot avoid creating. 

AD projects

Prosiect GwyriAD, an anaerobic digestion plant in Gwynedd serving the county, has been operational since October 2013. 

Constructed by Biogen, it can process 11,000 tonnes of food waste a year and has the potential to generate 3,500 megawatt hours of renewable electricity for the National Grid. Thanks to its rural location, local farmers can also make use of the nutrient-rich digestate produced as part of the AD process.  

Biogen is also moving ahead with two other Welsh AD projects.  

The company has started construction on an AD plant at Bryn Pica near Aberdare, which will be capable of processing 22,500 tonnes of food waste every year collected from Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport local authority areas, as well as local businesses.  

The plant should generate enough electricity to power more than 2,000 homes continuously and provide a valuable biofertiliser for local farmland. In North East Wales, the Biogen Waen project near Rhualt in Denbighshire is due to start operating in July, and will be recycling food waste collected from homes and businesses in Conwy, Flintshire and Denbighshire.  

These three projects have been supported by the Welsh Government through the £750m capital Waste Infrastructure Procurement Programme which supports Welsh councils to meet EU landfill diversion targets and their statutory recycling targets.  

The programme has two strands, one to deliver anaerobic digestion plants for the sustainable treatment of food waste, the other for diverting residual waste from landfill. 

The Welsh Government’s approach to procurement has been hands-on, supporting councils to work in regional consortia to benefit from economies of scale and to attract competitive tenders.  

Energy from waste

Construction is well underway on an energy from waste plant in Cardiff being built by Viridor. The company was awarded a contract to treat the waste of the Prosiect Gwyrdd consortium, a project that will be supported by the Welsh Government.  

The plant aims to process 350,000 tonnes of residual waste annually and will generate 30MW of electricity, which is sufficient to power 50,000 households.  

Further up the waste hierarchy, I am clear that waste prevention poses a big opportunity, to make better use of our resources, extend the lifetime of products, and to save money.  

Wales’ Waste Prevention Programme includes annual waste reduction targets for key areas to 2050; reductions in household, construction and demolition, commercial and industrial waste. It also outlines measures to encourage separate collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and work to encourage the development of a reuse network for Wales. By seeing this waste as a resource and creating conditions to promote repair, reuse and refurbishment, this approach will provide low cost goods to people in need in our communities.   

Reuse initiatives

At present there are many innovative reuse organisations operating in Wales. Charities and social enterprises like toogoodtowaste are bringing real benefits to communities. 

Operating within Rhondda Cynon Taf, the social enterprise helps to reduce waste by collecting re-usable household items which are sold in their charity shops. The income helps toogoodtowaste to support low income households with furniture packages, and to provide training and volunteering opportunities in the local community.  

As we move towards a circular economy and increase our efforts to prevent waste, organisations like toogoodtowaste, or Crest Co-operative in North Wales have a role to play. Not for profit and charity reuse organisations can be flexible and competitive; they can meet community need, employment and training opportunities, all while diverting waste from landfill.  

My priorities as minister are tackling poverty, growing a green economy and meeting our zero waste targets.  

Seeing waste as a resource is key to this, as it has the potential to create new jobs and commercial opportunities. One year in we have continued to build on the progress made by my predecessors, but there is much more to do as we move towards zero waste.   


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