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Welsh recycling efforts 'hindered by gov't approach'

Welsh recycling efforts are being undermined by disagreements between ministers and councils about what collection methods work best, according to an official report.

The auditor general for Wales said in his report, Public Participation in Waste Recycling, that while recycling rates were increasing, longer-term improvements were being hindered by weaknesses in performance management.

Huw Vaughan Thomas said in a statement on his report: “The Welsh government’s leadership, and particularly the clarity, timeliness and prescriptive style of communications about sustainable recycling, has left some local authorities confused and disengaged.

“Local authorities are also concerned that national plans do not take sufficient account of local circumstances, such as variations in the materials found in waste, or the most suitable methods of recycling in areas with different geography or housing type.”

Public Participation in Waste Recycling in summary:

  • The report highlights difficulties caused by conflicting views between the Welsh Government and local authorities about how best to provide recycling services for the public.
  • The Welsh government believes kerbside recycling and sorting is the most consistent mechanism for producing quality waste material and dislikes commingling dry waste – such as bottles, cans and card.
  • Some local authorities and private sector contractors dispute this assertion, saying that modern recovery facilities can mechanically sort co-mingled waste to sufficient quality and at a similar cost.
  • They say it is a much easier process for the public, who don’t have to sort materials and would boost levels of public participation further.

See full report here.

Auditor general for Wales Huw Vaughan Thomas said: “It is clear that the public are engaging more in recycling waste, and the Welsh Government and local authorities should be commended for their efforts over the last six years to encourage this. But the momentum will be lost unless there is significant change in some areas.

“We need to see better guidance from the Welsh government. Local authorities should get smarter in the way they collect data. And, most importantly, councils and government must work together to build agreement around the best methods of collecting waste.”

However, the report does did acknowledge the Welsh Government’s efforts in making recycling a priority.

It praises its “ambitious vision for sustainability, its detailed recycling targets for local authorities and its injection of over £360m in waste grants to councils since the year 2000”.

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