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Research into what’s still being put into black bags found a quarter of our waste is made up of food and another quarter of potentially recyclable material.

First published:
14 June 2016
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

This could hold the key to reaching our recycling targets ahead of time and boosting the Welsh economy.

In fact, if just half of all the food and dry recyclables found in Wales’ bins were recycled, Wales would reach its statutory 2025 recycling target of 70 per cent nine years early. 

The research by WRAP Cymru (external link) , on behalf of the Welsh Government, is published ahead of the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths’ first statement in the Senedd, during which she will set out her priority to create a more circular economy in Wales. 

A circular economy is one where high-quality materials derived from waste products can be supplied back to Welsh manufacturers as secondary raw material and then productively used again and again. 

It is estimated a circular economy has the potential to create around 30,000 jobs in Wales, with people employed to collect, transport, re-process and re-manufacture these materials, and could have an economic benefit of more than £2billion a year.

Our Towards Zero Waste strategy is all about making sure valuable material resources are kept in productive use for as long as possible and aligns to the circular economy concept. 

The analysis by WRAP reveals the latest recycling trends in Wales, and while there has been a 14 per cent increase in recyclable materials being recycled from homes, bins across Wales are still being filled with items which can easily be recycled or reused. 

As well as food waste and dry recyclables, the study found 17 per cent of waste electrical and electronic equipment and 50 per cent of clothing and textiles were sent to landfill. 

Lesley Griffiths said:


“It’s great to see people’s recycling habits are significantly improving. However, this research shows there’s still more we can do to meet our aim of being a zero waste nation by 2050.


“As well as the obvious environmental benefits, being a high-recycling society provides the basis for a strong circular economy. Re-circulating high value materials has an enormous potential to boost the Welsh economy, create jobs re-processing these materials here in Wales and lower our carbon footprint


“Our research into recycling habits is important in informing our work to meet our recycling targets. While there is much to celebrate it shows just small changes in people’s recycling can have enormous environmental and economical benefits. We will now look to do more to develop the circular economy and increase recycling participation.”


During a statement in the Senedd today the Cabinet Secretary is expected to set out plans to develop the circular economy, including exploring mechanisms, such as legislation, to require high content of recycled materials in products procured by the Welsh public sector and explore the use of Extended Producer Responsibility to ensure producers and retailers share the burdens of managing waste from households.


The Welsh Government’s strategy for waste, Towards Zero Waste: One Wales One Planet, sets out ambitions for the country to become a high recycling nation by 2025 and a zero waste nation by 2050. The Strategy will be undergoing review in the course of the next year.