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Wales outperforms other UK nations on recycling for tenth year running

11 May 2022 3 minute read
Food waste is placed in lockable kerbside containers, separate from other waste ready for collection. Picture by Abigail Appolonio on behalf of Welsh Government

Wales has outperformed other UK nations on recycling for the tenth year running, stats published today have shown.

The new figures reveal Wales to be the only UK nation to reach the minimum 50% recycling target set by the European Union, meaning if the UK were still an EU member, it would potentially be facing infraction fines for failing to meet the standard.

Wales recycled 56.5% of household waste, compared to 49.1% in Northern Ireland, 44.0% in England and 41.0% in Scotland.

Wales – currently ranked third in the world in domestic recycling – was the only nation to uphold its rates during the pandemic, with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all seeing a drop in performance.

Welsh Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “Most people in Wales now deem it unthinkable to scrape their food waste directly into the rubbish bin instead of their food caddy. This amazing change in behaviour by the Welsh public stops emissions from being released into the atmosphere that accelerate climate change.

“Our recycling stats are world class thanks to a Team Wales effort. Despite the pandemic and all the challenges it bought with it, local authorities managed to prioritise recycling, the collectors worked heroically all the way through, and the fantastic people of Wales continued to recycle.

“We must now continue to raise our ambitions to reach zero waste by 2050 and net zero carbon emissions so we can tackle the climate and nature emergencies in earnest, and pass on a resilient, green and prosperous planet to our future generations.”


Prior to devolution, Wales was one of the world’s worst recyclers, recycling just 4.8% of household waste in 1998-1999.

The Welsh Government said that since then, they have invested £1billion to support local authorities in achieving Wales’ recycling targets.

The high rate of household recycling in Wales saves over 400,000 tonnes of CO2 per year from being released into the atmosphere and further accelerating climate change, the Welsh Government said.

In Wales, food waste from 22 local authorities is sent to one of five anaerobic digestion plants around the country and converted into 7 MW of energy. That’s enough to power around 12,000 homes.

If sent to landfill, the hot and compressed conditions would convert food waste into methane gas, which is thirty to eighty times more damaging to climate change than carbon dioxide emissions.

If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third biggest carbon emitter behind China and India. That’s why food waste is ranked by the United Nations as one of the main target areas to limit runaway climate change.

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1 year ago

Proof, if any was needed, of what our country is capable of, when able to control things ourselves, what could we do if we controlled our own destiny as a seperate nation. Let’s find out .

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 year ago

Cue Andrew R2D2 claiming that this all down the UK government.

According to him anything that goes right in Wales is because of Westmonster tories, anything that goes wrong is because of devolution.

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