Powys Council has been awarded our Recycling Carbon Index trophy for being the best recycler in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions saved through its efforts in 2015/2016. The result, revealed in our latest Recycling Carbon Index, saw the Welsh authority overtake Cheshire West and Chester, the holder of top position for the last three years.

Picture caption: (L-R) Peter Jones presents the first place Recycling Carbon Index trophy to Cllr Phyl Davies, Powys County Council’s Cabinet Member for Property and Waste, Nigel Brinn, Powys County Council’s Head of Highways, Transport and Recycling and Ashley Collins, Powys County Council’s Waste and Recycling Strategy Manager.

Our latest Recycling Carbon Index showed council recycling schemes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland saved CO2 emissions equivalent to more than 237,000 European flights. The annual index uses the most up-to-date waste data to calculate the quantity of CO2 emissions each local authority is saving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland through their recycling collections. This allows local authorities to compare their performance and share best practice. The total across England and Wales and Northern Ireland comes to over 4 million tonnes saved, the equivalent to 237,905 European flights and a 46,000 tonne improvement from 2014/15.

The winners, Powys Council, have an in-house recycling collection service that is the most effective in reducing CO2 emissions across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Powys had the highest saving by some margin with Rhondda Cynon Taff coming in second with a saving total of 113kg of CO2 per person, 7kg less than Powys.

Commenting on the award Councillor Phyl Davies, Cabinet Member for Waste and Recycling, said:

“To be the leading recycling carbon-saving council in all of England, Northern Ireland and Wales is a great achievement. I would like to thank our residents for helping us get to this top spot, we couldn’t have done it without them. By recycling more items, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced. Eunomia specifically noted that the move to three-weekly residual collections in late 2015 has made a significant impact and helped us reach the top of this index. In 2015/16, an extra 10kg of plastic and an extra 5kg of metal was collected per person, resulting in a total saving of 130kg of carbon saved per person.

“However, we know that we can recycle more. A Welsh Government waste composition analysis showed that one third of waste in the black wheeled bin could be recycled. If householders recycle everything that they can by using their recycling boxes and food caddy, then they are reducing the amount of waste they are putting in their wheeled bin.  By doing this, not only are householders helping us meet Welsh Government recycling targets but they are also helping our environment.”

Eunomia Principal Consultant Peter Jones, who presented the trophy to Powys Council said:

“I’d like to congratulate Powys Council on their greatly improved and very impressive recycling performance. Welsh authorities hold 12 of the 18 ‘high flyer’ positions in the Carbon Index, and through the efforts they are making to boost recycling collection, have really come to dominate its upper tier. However, England and Northern Ireland, both also recorded improvements in the tonnage of CO2 saved through recycling last year.”

“It’s important to remember the role that recycling has to play in reducing our environmental impact. Maximising the amount they recycle is one of the easiest ways for people to contribute to reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s important to have a measure that helps explain those benefits, and highlight the materials that make the biggest difference. We hope to see other authorities vying for the top spots next year.”

Of the three countries in the index, Wales had the biggest percentage improvement in 2015/16, with 64% of councils increasing their carbon savings, resulting in an impressive total saving of 279,500 tonnes of CO2 – an improvement of 21,000 tonnes from 2014/15. Northern Ireland’s CO2 savings also improved by 3,500 tonnes.  England’s performance has, for a second successive year, improved only very slightly, with a 0.6% improvement in carbon savings compared with 2014/15. The Recycling Carbon Index follows our publication of Recycling – Who Really Leads the World? (Issue 2) delivered in partnership with the European Environmental Bureau that shows Wales is a global leader in recycling: England, however, is falling behind other European nations as its performance stagnates.

The Recycling Carbon Index calculates the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that are prevented as a result of local residents’ recycling efforts. Recycling saves greenhouse gas emissions because it avoids waste being sent to rot in landfill or burned in an incinerator – and it reduces the need for energy-intensive extraction of raw materials. This offers an alternative to tonnage-based recycling rates in assessing the performance of councils’ recycling schemes.