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'No evidence' that kerbside sorting is best

There is no evidence that the Welsh Government’s preferred kerbside method for household collection results in higher levels of recycling, according to the chair of the Welsh Assembly’s environment and sustainability committee.

Alun Ffred Jones, above, told delegates at a Policy Forum for Waste seminar in Cardiff that his committee’s report in December showed kerbside sorting was similar in cost and effectiveness to other methods.

Jones said the inquiry demonstrated that the method of collection “was less important than the effectiveness of local strategies at boosting recycling rates”.

Local authorities typically collect recyclables in one of three ways:

  • kerbside - sorting of materials at kerbside into different compartments of a specialist collection vehicle
  • single stream commingled - materials are collected in a single compartment vehicle with the sorting of these materials occurring at a MRF
  • two stream commingled - residents are provided with two recycling containers and are asked to place different materials in each container

“Good communication engagements combined with a reduction in [the number of] residual waste collections was the best way to increase recycling rates,” Jones said.

He added that householder engagement would be easier if there was more consistency in recycling arrangements across Welsh councils.

He also expressed concern that weight-based targets for local authority recycling may drive the wrong behaviours because they encourage the collection of heavier items above other waste streams.

“It could unintentionally come into conflict with the overarching objectives to reduce the ecological footprint of waste in Wales,” he said.

Four councils who failed to meet their recycling targets have been spared fines by the Welsh government.

“In these difficult times for local authorities, I doubt whether fining them further is going to get them to where they should be,” Jones added.

The inquiry said:

We recommend that the Welsh Government considers the merits of investing in a national campaign to help drive higher rates of recycling including to promote understanding of the need to reduce the ecological footprint of waste and the importance of other measures, particularly waste reduction.

During the inquiry, we also considered the use of penalties, both at the householder level for those not engaging with recycling and at a local authority level where an authority was not meeting statutory targets. Based on the evidence we took, it is clear that such measures are currently unnecessary and that there is still more that can be done to positively encourage behaviour change.

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