Wales ranked second globally for recycling according to new report

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Wales has been named the second-best recycling nation in the world, according to a new study published today.

The Welsh Government funded study, conducted by Eunomia Research and Consulting and Reloop, places Wales just behind Austria in global recycling rankings.

Among the 48 countries compared, Northern Ireland ranks 9th, England 11th, and Scotland 15th.

The report, titled ‘Global Recycling League Table – Phase One Report,’ examines the recycling performance of countries with the highest recycling rates and many of the world’s largest economies.

The study’s publication coincides with World Environment Day.

First Minister of Wales, Vaughan Gething, expressed pride in the achievement, stating, “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.”

Mr Gething highlighted the transformation of Wales from low recycling rates at the beginning of devolution to becoming a global leader, ahead of the rest of the UK.

“This achievement belongs to all of us, and we are committed to improving recycling rates further still with the number one spot in the world our next target,” he added.

Climate Change Cabinet Secretary, Mr Irranca-Davies, also commented on the accomplishment: “This is excellent news and, with the action we are already taking, we are working towards challenging for the top spot.”

“By extending successful household recycling approaches to workplaces, we are tackling the climate and nature emergencies while providing economic benefits by capturing high-quality recycled materials.”

He emphasised the importance of high-quality recycling in supporting the economy and reducing carbon emissions. “I often talk about a Welsh way of doing things, and the team effort which led to today’s achievement is one we should all be rightly proud of – da iawn Cymru!”

The AWD Group, a Welsh company playing a crucial role in the circular economy, was recognized for its contributions.

Managing Director, Mr Davies, highlighted their efforts: “We take in 300 tonnes of mixed rigid plastics a week and are proud of the contribution we make towards our recycling targets in Wales.”

Mr Davies noted the importance of local employment and the environmental impact of their work. “Cleaning and processing this material is hard work, but recycling these plastics is important because it would have historically gone to landfill and wouldn’t break down for hundreds of thousands of years.”

He added, “Wales is truly on the map with these recycling figures, and that’s a huge achievement.”

While Wales celebrates its recycling success, Flintshire has struggled to meet the nation’s targets.

Flintshire Council is proposing a shake-up of its waste strategy after being threatened with a fine of around £1 million for failing to meet Welsh Government targets.

The devolved government currently expects local authorities to achieve a recycling rate of 64 per cent, a goal which Flintshire missed during the last two financial years.

To address this, the council is considering measures such as reducing black bin collections or storing rubbish in smaller containers.

Councillors previously resisted a switch to three-weekly bin collections from the current fortnightly arrangement due to concerns over how it would impact residents.

However, with the government’s recycling target set to increase to 70 per cent for the next financial year, council officials have now said further measures are needed.

TOMRA, the International Aluminium Institute, the Can Manufacturers Institute and the Welsh Government funded the research by Eunomia in collaboration with Reloop with the aim of ascertaining who is doing what well when it comes to recycling.

Top 10 Performing Countries

Country Rank Adjusted Recycling Rate
Austria 1 59%
Wales 2 59%
Taiwan 3 53%
Germany 4 52%
Belgium 5 52%
Netherlands 6 51%
Denmark 7 51%
Slovenia 8 50%
Northern Ireland 9 45%
South Korea 10 45%

The report compares countries’ recycling rates on a like-for-like basis.

The focus is on ‘municipal waste’ recycling rates in line with the definition used by the EU.

Municipal waste is household waste and waste from other sources that are similar in nature and composition to household waste.

A country’s performance was analysed from their officially reported recycling rate (if they have one), using a figure that approximates a “municipal” recycling rate wherever possible.

The report endeavours to use underlying waste data and other published sources to adjust the results to present them on a consistent basis.

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