Beyond waste: delivering a circular economy

By Martin Pollard | 26 May 2021

Wales has been on an impressive waste management journey to transition from a linear economy to a true circular economy.

The country is successfully breaking the old mould of extraction of resources, production of goods and services, and disposal of post-consumer waste to achieve a paradigm shift where resources and materials are kept in use for as long as possible, avoiding preventable waste. In March this year, the Welsh Government published its latest and most ambitious strategy: Beyond Recycling.

This remarkable journey began more than 20 years ago at which point only 7% of local authority collected municipal waste was recycled or composted, with 93% going to landfill. The Welsh Government’s objective was to increase recycling rates and divert remaining waste away from landfill.

A collections blueprint was established to collect and segregate recyclable high-quality materials in a consistent way. Alongside this, energy from residual waste was recovered, and food waste treated through anaerobic digestion to produce energy and natural fertiliser.

This approach has proved to be very effective. Wales is now first in the UK, second in Europe and third in the world for household recycling. In 2020, Wales achieved more than 65% recycling of municipal waste, avoiding 403,000 tonnes of CO2.

The next stage will involve the delivery of an infrastructure programme to repair, reuse and recycle a broader range of materials. This starts with provision of repair facilities alongside processing units to recycle absorbent hygiene products, bulky plastics and wood into raw materials that can be used in manufacturing processes in Wales, keeping things local.

The waste and recycling services themselves will be decarbonised including the transition to ultra-low emission collection fleets and material re-processing facilities, supporting opportunities for directly-connected onsite renewable generation schemes.

Local Partnerships has been a strategic delivery partner to the Welsh Government since 2008 and we have a leading role in the design and delivery of major infrastructure programmes. With the latest consultation phase of the Resources and Waste Strategy for England released this month, we are well-placed to assist councils in England who will face the same challenges that are being tackled in Wales.

Martin Pollard is programme director, waste, at Local Partnerships


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