Wales ranked as second best recycling country in the world

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The study, conducted by Eunomia Research and Consulting and Reloop, assessed the municipal recycling performance of 48 countries, including those with the highest reported recycling rates and many of the world’s largest economies. Wales outperformed the rest of the UK, with Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland ranking 9th, 11th, and 15th, respectively.

According to the authors, Wales’s high-placing in the global recycling rankings (diverting 59 per cent of municipal waste) can be attributed to several key factors, driven by an ambitious Government strategy, which includes setting statutory recycling targets for local authorities.

Austria, the top-performing country, which has a long-standing commitment to recycling, introduced widespread separate collections of organic waste in 1995 which has played a key role. Austria also introduced Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the 1990s, covering WEEE, batteries, and packaging.

While all UK nations have implemented strategies to improve recycling, the study finds that Wales’s approach, with its statutory targets and financial incentives, has proven more effective. Additionally, Wales had an advantage in terms of the quality of its non-household municipal waste data, using a 2018 survey that was considered more reliable than the data available for England and Northern Ireland.

First Minister of Wales, Vaughan Gething, praised the nation’s achievement: “It’s fantastic news that Wales has climbed to second in the world for recycling. This shows what we can achieve when people across Wales work together to deliver against ambitious targets, backed up by investment in our infrastructure.”

The study’s methodology involved adjusting reported recycling rates to account for differences in calculation methods between countries. Key elements included aligning with the EU definition of municipal waste, adjusting recycling rates to correspond with the EU’s Waste Framework Directive calculation point, and excluding certain materials such as incinerator bottom ash and outputs from mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plants.

These adjustments led to the downgrading of recycling rates for several countries. The most significant reductions were made for Singapore (-30 per cent), South Korea (-19 per cent), Spain (-18 per cent), and Germany (-17per cent). The discrepancies were primarily due to the inclusion of non-municipal waste, overestimation of recycling from MBT plants, and basing rates on waste collected for recycling rather than actual recycling.

Climate Change Cabinet Secretary Huw Irranca-Davies emphasised the importance of capturing high-quality recycling in Wales, in the process supporting job creation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He added: “This is excellent news and, with the action we are already taking, we are working towards challenging for the top spot… I often talk about a Welsh way of doing things and the team effort which had led to today’s achievement is one should all be rightly proud of – da iawn Cymru!

AWD Group, a Welsh company supported by the Welsh Government’s Circular Economy Fund, demonstrates the nation’s commitment to recycling. Managing Director Alun Wyn Davies highlighted the company’s contribution to recycling targets and its plans to create additional jobs.

Country Reported Recycling Rate Rank Adjusted Recycling Rate Rank Change Between Reported and Adjusted
Austria 62.5% 4 59.0% 1 -3.5%
Wales 65.2% 2 58.6% 2 -6.6%
Taiwan 58.8% 6 52.5% 3 -6.3%
Germany 69.3% 1 52.04% 4 -17.3%
Belgium 55.5% 10 52.02% 5 -3.5%
Netherlands 57.8% 7 51.5% 6 -6.3%
Denmark 57.6% 8 50.9% 7 -6.7%
Slovenia 60.8% 5 49.6% 8 -11.2%
Northern Ireland 49.7% 12 45.4% 9 -4.3%
South Korea 64.2% 3 45.3% 10 -18.9%
England 41.5% 17 43.7% 6 2.2%
France 43.8% 13 41.2% 12 -2.6%
Ireland 40.8% 18 40.9% 13 0.1%
Italy 51.9% 11 40.6% 14 -11.3%
Scotland 42.7% 14 39.2% 15 -3.5%
Finland 39.0% 21 39.0% 16 0.0%
Sweden 39.5% 20 38.3% 17 -1.2%
Australia 42.0% 19 37.9% 18 -4.1%
Norway 36.9% 22 36.9% 19 0.0%
Poland 40.3% 22 35.7% 20 -4.6%
US 32.0% 23 30.8% 21 -1.2%
Singapore 57.0% 9 26.9% 22 -30.1%
India N/A None 25.7% N/A N/A
Canada 27.5% 25 25.1% 24 -2.4%
Spain 42.2% 15 24.1% 25 -18.1%
South Africa 11.4% 26 23.8% 5 12.4%
Thailand N/A None 21.8% N/A N/A
New Zealand 28.0% 24 17.0% 28 -11.0%
Greece 17.5% 27 16.5% 29 -1.0%
China 0.7% 34 15.3% 30 15.3%
Japan 19.6% 26 15.3% 31 -4.3%
Serbia 16.8% 29 15.2% 32 -1.6%
Vietnam N/A None 15.0% 33 N/A
Colombia 17.1% 28 13.0% 34 -4.1%
Egypt N/A None 11.8% 35 N/A
Kenya 36.9% 22 8.0% 36 -28.9%
Argentina N/A None 5.4% 37 N/A
Turkey 12.3% 30 5.0% 38 -7.3%
Mexico N/A None 4.4% 39 N/A
Ghana N/A None 2.7% 40 N/A
Brazil 2.3% 32 2.3% 41 0.0%
Saudi Arabia N/A None 2.1% 42 N/A
Peru N/A None 2.1% 43 N/A
Botswana N/A None 0.5% 44 N/A
Chile 1.9% 33 0.5% 45 -1.4%
Timor-Leste N/A None 0.0% 46 N/A
Pakistan N/A None 0.0% 46 N/A
Nigeria N/A None 0.0% 46 N/A

To view the report and full table visit the Eunomia website.

 

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