Cardiff ponders move to segregated recycling

Cardiff council will this week discuss moving from commingled to segregated recycling collections as part of efforts to improve recycling rates and hit the Welsh government’s climate goals.

Most Cardiff residents currently put a mix of their recyclables into a green plastic bag for collection at the kerbside

Currently, most Cardiff residents put a mix of their recyclables into a green plastic bag for collection by the council. This is then taken to the council’s own Lamby Way material recycling facility (MRF), where it is separated before being sent for recycling and processing.

The council says this method of collection produces a high level of contamination, with non-recyclables like food and nappies ending up in the green bags. Cardiff says its residents currently use 23.7 million green bags every year.

Earlier this year, around 4,000 homes in the Welsh capital took part in a pilot which saw recyclables separated by residents and placed into specific containers for collection. They placed bottles and jars in one container, paper and cardboard in another, and plastic, metal and tin containers in a third.

Cllr Caro Wild, Cardiff council’s cabinet member for climate change, said: “When we undertook the pilot, we saw some very positive results. Contamination dropped from a 30% average to just 6%.

“The system appeared easier for people to understand and of course it eliminated the need for single-use, plastic, green bags. It was a win-win in terms of improving recycling and reducing unnecessary plastic waste.”

Local authority experts within Wales see the move as significant because Cardiff is one of few councils still to collect commingled material from the kerbside. In the Collections Blueprint of 2011, which details the Welsh Government’s recommended service profile for the collection of household waste, the devolved authority states its preference for councils to use a kerbside sort approach.

The meeting will take place on 28 September and comes 10 years after the council met to discuss similar plans which never came to fruition (see story).

Recycling Strategy

At the meeting, the council will discuss the phased roll-out of the pilot scheme to homes in more parts of the city.

Cardiff’s Lamby Way MRF opened in 2006

A council spokesperson told the future use of the Lamby Way MRF once segregated collections are rolled out city-wide was “yet to be determined”. They said it could be “easily modified” to bale materials or for use as a secondary sorting facility. However, they said it was possible the MRF could be decommissioned.

Cardiff council will also look at devising further pilots to develop ways to ensure people who live in blocks of flats or houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) can recycle “better”. The council says this type of accommodation makes up around 30% of the city’s homes.

Cardiff also wants to increase the number of items that residents can recycle at the kerbside or “neighbourhood recycling venues”. This includes items such as cartons, coffee pods, textiles and small electrical items.

And, the council hopes to trial methods to restrict the amount of general waste households can present for collection. This would include moving to a three-weekly collection for non-recyclable waste in areas where residents have wheeled bins and a two binbag limit per fortnight in areas where non-recyclable household waste is collected in sacks. The council says it would retain separate collections for hygiene products such as nappies.


Cardiff council currently provides in-house weekly food waste collections, weekly green bag collections for commingled recycling, fortnightly garden waste collections in summer and fortnightly residual waste collections, alongside fortnightly hygiene collections and bulky waste collections by request.

We know that the quality of our recycling could be much better

  • Cllr Caro Wild, Cardiff council’s cabinet member for climate change

Representing an estimated population of around 485,000, Cardiff council had a household waste recycling rate of around 60% in 2021/22.

While this is “one of the best recycling records of any major city in the UK and in Europe”, it means Cardiff failed to meet Welsh Government’s legally binding recycling target of 64% recycling. Failure to meet the target could result in a financial penalty.

Cllr Wild added: “We know there are a number of challenges facing us. We live in a major city with a diverse housing stock, transient population, high proportion of businesses and large-scale events, which all bring additional waste.

“Alongside this, we know that the quality of our recycling could be much better. Almost a third of the material collected in our green bags should not be there and is currently being sent to incineration.”

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