Welsh resources minister Carl Sargeant has opted to waive fines totalling more than £1 million for Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil councils over failure to meet their statutory recycling targets for 2013/14.
The decision, which was formally approved last week (June 3) means that Cardiff will not be forced to pay its £802,000 penalty for failing to meet the 54% recycling target for 2013/14, while Merthyr has been let off a total fine of £224,000.
The authorities achieved recycling rates of 49.67% and 48.22% respectively for the year, with Cardiff 4,011 tonnes off target, and Merthyr 1,120 tonnes away.
The minister’s decision to waive the fines will come as a relief to both local authorities, with the penalties having been set at £200 per tonne away from the target.
Welsh Government ministers also chose not to impose fines on the authorities who failed to meet the 52% statutory recycling in 2012/13, instead encouraging councils to participate in the Collaborative Change Programme, which provides councils with specialist advice on recycling.
It is not clear if they will continue to waive penalties for targets in future, with an overall goal for Wales to achieve a minimum recycling rate of 58% by March 2016 – rising to 70% of waste by 2024/25. Wales aims to become a ‘zero waste’ nation by 2050.
Cardiff council has looked at various methods of boosting its recycling rate and has opted to reduce the residual waste capacity for households by switching from 240l containers to 140l.
These changes are set to come into effect from the end of July, which it is hoped will be in time to boost recycling ahead of the 2016 target. Figures published in February show that Cardiff is still lagging some way behind the highest performers in Wales, and recorded a 49% recycling rate between July and September 2014.
According to the latest full year statistics published by the Welsh Government in November, Denbighshire county council maintained its lead in the Welsh recycling league table, recording a combined recycling, composting and reuse rate of 63.2% – up from 58% in 2012/13. The authority was closely followed by high-climber Monmouthshire, which saw its combined rate rise from 55.5% last year to 62.9% in 2013/14.