Drop in recycling rates sparks concern in county that Welsh Gov targets will be missed
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
A drop in Gwynedd’s recycling rates has sparked concern that the county will miss Welsh Government targets.
By 2025 all Welsh councils will have to recycle or compost 70% of their waste or risk being fined, but Gwynedd could end the year struggling to reach the existing 64% target, according to a report presented to the council’s cabinet this week.
Since 2018/19 the county has seen steady increases, posting year end recycling rates of 62.31%, 64.74% and 65.87% by the end of 2020/21.
However, concern has been raised over a reversing trend, with figures showing that only 64.64% of waste has been recycled during the first half of 2021/22.
A meeting of the council’s cabinet, held on Tuesday, heard that more general waste being collected has impacted on the county’s recycling rates.
To help get back on track, the report noted that plans in the pipeline include the installation of more recycling bins in public areas, as well as an awareness campaign.
“The recycling rates have gone down quite significantly, and its important to note that we cannot dip below 64%,” said the portfolio holder for Highways and Municipal, Cllr Catrin Wager.
“Its important that these rates improve and we continue to recycle.
“Just before Christmas it’s important to remember that we’ll all be getting a lot of stuff coming in to our homes so its vital that we all try to recycle everything we can.
“The service will be continuing to collecting on Monday and Tuesday, despite being Bank Holidays, and I’d also ask that people book a slot in our recycling centres if needed.”
‘Fewer general collections’
As the push to generate less waste intensifies, many councils across Wales have already opted for fewer general collections as landfill targets tighten.
In 2008 Gwynedd introduced fortnightly and in 2014 three weekly collections in a bid to encourage more residents to use their recycling boxes and to save money.
The average person in Gwynedd generates over half a tonne of waste a year, most of which is recycled in some form.
This material is usually sold on for a profit which in itself brings in an average income to the council of £700,000 a year – the equivalent of a 1% council tax rise.
The remaining third of general waste and non-recyclables are transported to Parc Adfer in Deeside, the new £800m waste-to-energy incinerator which takes in such waste from all northern counties with the exception of Wrexham.
Food waste, meanwhile, goes to the GwyriAD anaerobic digestion plant in Clynnog Fawr.
The specialist centre converts such food waste into electrical energy for the National Grid and fertilizer for agricultural land.
But despite over 5,400 tonnes of food being converted every year, officers estimate that another 2,000 tonnes are being wrongfully dumped into general waste bins.
Steffan Jones, the head of Highways and Municipal, added that they had noted changing patterns during the course of an average year, and that the popular tourist season can result in an increase in residual waste during the summer.
“There’s a difficult period ahead of us and we’ll be monitoring the situation over the third quarter to ensure we remain above the statutory 64%,” he added.
“We need a specific plan to reach 70% by March 2025 and that’s what we’ll be working on.”
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The targets do need to be met but to put this into context Gwynedd is still performing on target and do better than the very best local authorities in England. Barrow in Furness doesn’t even get up to 20% and is one of 11 English councils that don’t achieve 25%.
That also helps explain why tourists create more unrecycled waste, Liverpool and Birmingham residents recycle only 23.6% at home so are not accustomed to the higher standards in Wales.
Gwynedd do not accept plastic wrapping for recycling. Which lets face it, is a significant proportion of the packaging forced on us by retailers.