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Recycling

Our ambition is to recycle at least 70 per cent of our waste by 2025 and to be a zero waste (100 per cent recycling) nation by 2050.

Recycling is usually the best way of preventing waste going to landfill and getting value from waste that cannot easily be reused or prevented.

It is important that we recycle in the right way to get the economic and environmental benefits that we want to achieve for Wales.

This means keeping waste materials separate at source before they are recycled. This prevents contamination and ensures that as much waste as possible is recycled to a high quality.

In general there are two types of recycling: “open loop” and “closed loop”.

Open loop recycling

An example of open loop recycling is crushing waste bottle glass to use it as a replacement for stone in aggregate. Comparatively little energy is required to produce stone for aggregate, whilst glass manufacturing takes a lot of energy. Recycling waste glass to produce new glass bottles uses less energy than making glass bottles from raw materials. Overall, it is much better to recycle waste glass back into bottles than to use it as replacement aggregate, in terms of the energy used and greenhouse gasses produced. Overall most open loop recycling should be discouraged as it can lead to less beneficial environmental outcomes.

Closed loop recycling  

The best economic, social and environmental outcomes are achieved normally through “closed loop”, high quality, recycling. This is where recyclable wastes are reprocessed back into the original raw material or product. Examples include waste newspapers being reprocessed back into newsprint, and waste glass bottles being reprocessed back into glass bottles.

Collecting and reprocessing recyclable wastes in a closed loop, high quality way will help Wales achieve a “circular economy”. This means that materials continually cycle from production to product and then at end of life are recycled back into new products again. This will help create jobs and will help Welsh businesses save money. It will also provide us with a more secure supply of affordable materials for manufacturing.

In closed loop, high quality, recycling it is important to keep waste materials separate at source as much as possible, to reduce contamination from other waste materials. Mixing recyclable wastes is known as ‘comingling’. It can lead to lower quality recycling, making it less likely that the material can then be used by Welsh manufacturing companies in closed loop uses.