Why isn’t there one recycling system for the whole of Wales?

(Title Image: Wales Online)

If you’ve read the Glamorgan Gazette or Wales Online recently, you won’t have failed to notice stories on the recycling and rubbish collection situation in Wildmill.

The problem has boiled down in part to the street layout. Most of the people living in the Radburn design streets (Maes-y-Felin, Glanffornwg, Tairfelin, Tremgarth) don’t have a kerb to put their kerbside collections and blue bags on, so the rubbish has to be put in designated communal bins/areas which is as good as an invite to dump whatever you want there, facing no consequences.

While BCBC, Valleys2Coast and Kier have installed additional collection points, the problem has been made worse by reported fly-tipping.

Would this problem be eased, and would recycling rates increase, if residents could put all their recyclables in one bag or container and leave it to be sorted centrally by Kier?

How should councils collect their rubbish?

The Welsh Government issued recommendations regarding how councils should collect waste but, as far as I know, they’ve never forced councils to do things a certain way.

The recommendations say councils and contractors should have weekly collections of dry recyclables (i.e. paper, card, glass, plastic), weekly collections of food waste and fortnightly collections of non-recyclable waste.

The Welsh Government also recommends that households pre-sort recyclables into separate containers – but some councils don’t do this as I turn to next.

How do different Welsh councils collect their rubbish?

All councils collect food waste and other specifics (i.e. garden waste, batteries) in separate containers.

The only differences are in how dry recycling (plastic, paper, cardboard, metals, foil, glass etc.) is dealt with.

Broadly-speaking, Welsh councils use three different methods.

Trolibocs (identical stackable plastic containers/mini bins put onto a trolly; household pre-sorts)


(Pic: South Wales Argus)
  • Anglesey (recycling rate 2017-18: 72.2%)
  • Blaenau Gwent (56%)
  • Conwy (63.7%)
  • Gwynedd (60.3%)

Average performance – 63.1%

Dry recycling pre-sorted by household into at least two separate bags/boxes for card/paper, glass and plastics


(Pic: Bridgend & Porthcawl Gem)
  • Bridgend (68.6%)
  • Flintshire (67.6%)
  • Merthyr Tydfil (62.7%)
  • Monmouthshire (65.8%)
  • Neath Port Talbot (60.5%)
  • Newport (59.8%)
  • Powys (60.4%)
  • Swansea (63.3%)
  • Torfaen (60.6%)
  • Wrexham (65.4%)

Average performance – 63.5%

Different types of dry recycling mixed together in one bag/container (sorted centrally by council/contractor)

(Pic: Rhondda Cynon Taf Council)
  • Caerphilly (66.7%)
  • Cardiff (58.3%)
  • Carmarthenshire (63.6%)
  • Ceredigion* (63.7%)
  • Denbighshire (64.2%)
  • Pembrokeshire* (57%)
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf+ (61.3%)
  • Vale of Glamorgan (63.2%)

Average performance – 62.3%

* Paper, card, metals and plastics are collected in one container
+ Dry recycling is collected in the same colour bags, but cardboard and paper are separated from plastics and glass

You would think that putting as many dry recyclables in the same container as possible would result in higher average recycling rates because it’s “easier”, but there’s no evidence of any real difference between the three main recycling methods.

Maybe centralised sorting of recyclables and allowing Wildmill residents to put all recycling in one container or bags – perhaps sorting the recycling in a facility on the Wildmill estate itself – is something Kier and BCBC can look at to solve the problem, but I doubt that’ll happen realistically.

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