Wales second in global recycling league | MRW

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Wales has placed second in a global recycling league table by consultancy Eunomia with a recycling rate of 59% for municipal waste.

Austria topped the table, with Northern Ireland placed ninth with a 45% rate. England lay in 11th place at 44% while Scotland was 15th at 39%.

First minister of Wales Vaughan Gething said the country’s climb to second in the world was “fantastic news”.

“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 Welsh Government funded Eunomia’s research in collaboration with Reloop and was also supported by reverse vending machine maker Tomra, the International Aluminium Institute and the Can Manufacturers Institute.

It examined the recycling performance of 48 countries, focusing on municipal waste on a like-for like basis. It noted, however, that even the best performers had recycling rates of less than 60% once differences in reporting practice were accounted for. 

All the countries that made the top 10 had longstanding strategies and policies that have driven investments in collection, logistics, sorting and reprocessing.

Eunomia said the results showed the importance of investing in convenient and efficient recycling, as well as establishing behavioural norms over many years to create a recycling culture.

It noted the recycling rate in Wales has increased dramatically since the introduction of the Towards Zero Waste strategy in 2010, which set long-term, escalating recycling targets for local authorities, backed by financial penalties if these were missed.

Common features of countries with high municipal recycling rates included formal waste and recycling strategies, widespread separate collection of common recyclables, and methods to fund recycling on a ‘polluter pays’ basis, such as extended producer responsibility.

The research found big differences in the amounts of beverage containers placed on the market, and little correlation between consumption and recycling performance.

Tanzir Chowdhury, principal economist at Eunomia Research and Consulting, said more countries would be added to subsequent phases of the initiative.

“It is very important to understand how each country around the world is performing in terms of waste generation and recycling of the generated waste so that we can accurately track the progress on moving towards a more circular world economy,” said Chowdhury.

The top 10 countries were:

  •  Austria 59%
  • Wales 59%
  • Taiwan 53%
  • Germany 52%
  • Belgium 52%
  • Netherlands 51%
  • Denmark 51%
  • Slovenia 50%
  • Northern Ireland 45%
  • South Korea 45%

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