WHEN you leave your waste food, plastic, glass and paper at the kerbside, you probably don’t spend too much time thinking what happens next.
After being picked up by council refuse collectors, this waste can end up in some far-flung places.
Most of it is dealt with in Wales and England, but some goes to Europe and a small percentage gets sent to countries including Turkey, India, Malaysia and Vietnam.
This is allowed, but councils have to ensure these destinations comply with specific criteria and confirm the material has been recycled appropriately.
The latest recycling data for Wales – published on November 26 – shows that authorities recycled or composted 65% of municipal waste in 2019-20.
As well as the environmental benefits, this saved £106 million in disposal costs.
Swansea Council hit 65% – 2% more than the previous year – and saved £9 million.
Carmarthenshire Council also achieved 65%, which was 6% more than in 2018-19, and saved £5 million.
The majority of Carmarthenshire’s recycled waste completed its journey in Wales and England, but 126 tonnes of old carpets went to Holland and several hundred tonnes of incinerator ash – which counts as a recycled product – went to Holland, Sweden and Denmark.
Sweden and France received some of the county’s metal – and in a couple of cases the end destination is “unspecified”.
A council spokeswoman said 70% of Carmathenshire’s material was recycled in the UK, and 21% within the European Union.
Referring to the other 9%, she said: “When this is not possible we ensure any market destinations comply with ‘end of waste’ criteria and confirm the material has been recycled appropriately.”
Swansea’s recyclable waste was also dealt with in Wales and England in the main but Sweden took some its incinerator ash, and some metal and paper was shipped to India.
Some cardboard and paper also ended up in Vietnam and Indonesia, while 149 tonnes of plastic went to Turkey.
Like Carmarthenshire, in a few cases the end destination is “unspecified”.
Swansea Council said it also ensured any destinations complied with end of waste regulations.
China used to accept exported waste plastic but banned it in 2018, along with 23 other imported recyclable products.
Councils could make more money from recycling if we all put the right materials in the right bags.
Fifteen per cent of Carmarthenshire’s blue bag waste was rejected in 2019-20 because it was contaminated with things like nappies and crisp packets.