Cardiff will need to achieve a 12% rise in its recycling rate while also cutting the volume sent for energy recovery, or face fines that could run up to £21m.
The city needs to meet the Welsh Government’s 2024-25 target of 70%, while also reducing its level of energy-from-waste (EfW) by 12 percentage points to 30%, down from the current 42%.
The Viridor-run EfW facility, Trident Park, is the largest in Wales and handles 350,000 tonnes of residual waste per year. As a local authority area, Cardiff collects and recycles more waste than any other Welsh local authority yet is not one of the highest achieving councils when it comes to recycling percentages.
The warning over fines was laid out in a report by Cardiff environmental scrutiny committee on 5 September for the authority’s Managing Recycling in Cardiff plan.
Cardiff’s Waste Management Strategy 2015 is reviewed every three years to ensure it reflects the current challenges, legislation and recycling position.
The statutory targets set by the Welsh Government carry a £200 per tonne penalty for all local authorities who miss their goal for recycling levels and diversion of waste from landfill.
The report states that “the ’do nothing option’ has not been an option for Cardiff; if no further changes are made to the delivery of council recycling services then the fines between now and 2020 could equate to over £21m.”
It adds that although the majority of the initiatives identified to take the council to 58% for the 2017-18 target have been delivered, “constant thought” is needed to ensure that the council achieves future targets.
Cardiff expects to have to recycle approximately 32,000 tonnes of additional waste each year in order to meet its targets, taking into account population growth.
It plans to achieve this through partnership with Welsh Government and neighbouring local authorities. This includes exploring the feasibility and interest of building a regional recycling facility, as well as market appetite.
A spokesman said: “The council works with five local authorities to treat non-recyclable waste to create green energy through an energy recovery facility. This partnership gives significant benefits, as by working together through economies of scale, the price for each of the partners to treat this waste is lower than if they worked individually.
”Using the same logic, Cardiff is currently proposing to carry out a feasibility study to explore the possibility of a partnership for dry recyclables but no decision has yet been made.”
Recent figures revealed Wales’ household recycling rate has risen to 64%.
Three Welsh authorities last year failed to hit the set recycling target of 58%, with Newport and Torfaen achieving 57% and Blaenau Gwent at 47%. They managed to avoid the penalties, which would have cost Torfaen £49,800 and Blaenau Gwent £573,000.