New research by Eunomia finds that Germany and Taiwan lead the world on municipal solid waste recycling – but by a small and narrowing margin against third place Wales.
In a new report, prepared in association with Resource Media, Eunomia drew together recycling rate figures from around the world, and then worked to remove the inconsistencies that make such figures difficult to compare with one another. The study was given prominent mention by Carl Sargeant AM, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, in a debate on future recycling targets for Wales at the Senedd yesterday, as the Welsh Government mooted moving towards an 80% target.
The report considered the impact of a range of factors:
- Some EU nations (e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany) report metals recovered from incinerator bottom ash as recycled, while others (e.g. Sweden, Slovenia, Switzerland) do not.
- Germany and Austria both appear to report large amounts of inputs to MBT as recycled or composted, when much of the output is incinerated or landfilled.
- Singapore’s data includes a substantial amount of non-household waste, such as rubble and industrial slag, which have very high recycling rates, and counts wood burnt as biomass as recycled.
- Wales, too, counts recycled rubble collected by local authorities in its totals, and includes a substantial amount of incinerator bottom ash recycled as aggregate.
- There is considerable variation in the ways in which contamination is assessed. It appears that Slovenia, for example, measures almost all material collected for recycling as recycled, disregarding the impact of contamination. Other countries count material once it has been subject to an initial sort, while others take considerable pains to track material as close as possible to the point of reprocessing.
By taking these factors into account, the study enables a fair comparison to be made, and reveals the striking progress that Wales has made since it introduced its zero waste agenda in 2010.