Powys Council has been awarded the Eunomia Recycling Carbon Index trophy for the second year running for being the best recycler in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions saved in 2016/17, our annual Recycling Carbon Index reveals.

Published in September 2018, the Recycling Carbon Index shows council recycling schemes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland saved CO2 emissions equivalent to boiling the kettle for 285 billion cups of tea. The annual index uses the most up-to-date waste data to calculate the quantity of CO2emissions 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 3.7 million tonnes saved, a 87,000 tonne improvement from 2015/16. The growing carbon savings being made across the UK as the result of changing recycling practices will only become more crucial in the years to come, as highlighted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent report, which states that reducing levels of carbon emissions is one of the most important steps in keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade.

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 of 118kg of CO2 per person, with 2014/15 winners Cheshire West and Cheshire coming in second with a savings total of 111kg, 7kg less than Powys.

Accepting the trophy on behalf of the council, Cllr 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 for a second year running is a fantastic achievement.
“We’re very proud of what local residents have helped us achieve and I would like to thank them for their efforts in getting us to the top spot once again, we couldn’t have done it without them.
“The result shows that the effort that residents and our staff make to separate waste at source really pays dividends when it comes to producing carbon savings.”

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

“I’d like to congratulate Powys Council on their impressive recycling performance. 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, Northern Ireland had the biggest percentage improvement in 2016/17, with 82% of councils increasing their carbon savings, resulting in an impressive total saving of 141,000 tonnes of CO2 – an improvement of 14,200 tonnes from 2015/16. Wales’ CO2 savings also improved by 8000 tonnes. England’s performance improved by 2.6%, with 250,000 tonnes more material recycled than in 2015/16.

The waste and recycling industry is currently exploring new ways to measure recycling performance, with our Recycling Carbon Index providing a clear alternative to weight based measures. Life Cycle Assessment Specialist Simon Hann presented on the alternatives to weight based targets at the annual CIWM conference earlier in 2018, and the consultancy’s Principal Consultant Peter Jones delivered a similar presentation at the Resource and Waste Management (RWM) conference in September, making the Recycling Carbon Index an even more valuable piece of research as it demonstrates the added insight and accuracy of carbon-based measures.

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.

Find out where your local authority ranks here, and download the results of the Recycling Carbon Index 2015/16 for free.