In 2015 Resource Futures delivered the national municipal waste analysis in Wales for WRAP and the Welsh Government. This was the first time a comprehensive study had been commissioned within the UK to include all the Local Authorities in one nation. The aim was to capture data on significant waste streams and deliver robust data sets for Wales as a whole as well as individual local authorities. This was achieved over two seasonal phases through the analysis of kerbside collected refuse and food waste in every Welsh authority, and commingled recycling where appropriate. Other waste streams such as HWRC residual waste, trade waste and litter were also incorporated into the analysis to give a full picture of waste in Wales.
The Welsh Government continues to show strong leadership and proactivity in approaching waste management. The overarching waste strategy document 'Towards Zero Waste', and the ‘Collections Blueprint’ outline ambitious targets for local authorities with a view to making Wales a zero waste nation by 2050. So far the strategy appears to be working with Wales leading the UK field with a 59 per cent combined reuse/recycling/composting rate for the 12 months to the end of December 2015.
What makes the Welsh model so effective is the combination of statutory targets for local authorities, continued financial investment into local authority waste sectors and the comprehensive ‘Collections Blueprint’ outlining best practice using evidence based research.
Feeding waste strategy
The fact that the Welsh Government is investing in large scale monitoring is another welcome sign. The recent monitoring activities in Wales showed that 50% of residual waste still comprises recyclable materials, but also that waste strategies like mandatory separate weekly food waste collections, restricted residual waste volumes and charged garden waste collections are helping to drive up recycling yields. Ongoing composition analysis is key to identifying areas for improvement and pinpointing which strategies are working, and which not. This then enables the creation of better evidence based waste strategies delivering maximum recycling improvement gains.
How we did it
In terms of getting good quality data for such a wide area, effective communication with the local authorities was essential. The two fieldwork managers looked after 11 local authorities each, making sure that their individual circumstances were taken into account and they were engaged in the project. At the same time, it was important to ensure that the research methodology was applied in the same way across the Country.
In order to ensure that the residents were informed of the research all households within the sample frame were delivered a letter informing them of the research and giving them an opportunity to opt out. This was hand delivered by our fieldworkers to ensure that only households who received the letters were included in the research. Close to 13,000 letters were delivered in each of the 2 phases (summer and winter).
Household sample collections is not an easy task. The sampling team needs to be on the streets on the collection day before the normal crews get to the streets but not too early, to make sure that the waste is set out by the residents. The effective communication and meticulous planning of logistics are therefore crucial. We planned to collect samples from 4,620 households in each phase and succeeded in 99% and 97% of cases in summer and winter phases respectively.
Each of the samples was analysed in the same way and according to the same category list. We designed the category list to allow the resulting data to be widely interrogated. This ensured it was possible to look at quantities of recyclable waste both widely across the country and individually for each local authority where niche materials are included. The food waste categorisation was designed to be comparable with the current estimates in terms of avoidability of food waste. Relevant items like clothing and bric-a-brac found in the waste steam were assessed for reusability.
Our experienced fieldwork teams played a key part in delivering this contract successfully. By maintaining and training our pool of operatives and site managers we ensured that the same methods were used across all areas, accuracy was maintained and we could be confident that health and safety rules were strictly adhered to. Over the two seasons the teams hand sorted 97 tonnes of residual waste, 23 tonnes of commingled recycling and 14 tonnes of food waste.