Cardiff is recycling more than half of its household rubbish for the first time, according to new figures.
The capital’s recycling rate has surged to 54% since the introduction of fortnightly black bag collections last September – a rise of 12% compared to the same quarter last year.
The overhaul of the city’s waste collection regime, which included weekly food scrap and green bag collections, saw 75% of homes given new collection days.
The changes led to hundreds of householders complaining that their waste was not being collected on time, but council leader Rodney Berman yesterday said the recycling drive had been “embraced” by residents.
It comes as a report by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) warned there were “substantial barriers” to raising recycling rates across the nation.
Cardiff council’s ruling executive body was yesterday told the city was now on track to record a 53% recycling rate for 2011/12.
If the increase can be sustained next year, it is expected the rate will hit 58% – well above the Welsh Government target of 52%.
And the reduction in the amount of rubbish sent to landfill is expected to save the authority £1.3m in 2012/13.
Councillor Margaret Jones, executive member for environment, said: “This is a very significant achievement for Cardiff council and its residents and we’re delighted with the progress made so far.
“As well as achieving sustainability goals, it also decreases the future cost of landfill tax and landfill allowance scheme penalties as well as recycling fines that could otherwise rapidly accumulate to millions of pounds over a few years.
“I thank the residents of Cardiff for working with us to make the recycling collection changes such a success. The results are fantastic so far, and I hope we can all work together to ensure we keep improving and building on this excellent set of figures.”
Council leader Rodney Berman said the Liberal Democrat/Plaid Cymru-run authority had “revolutionised the way Cardiff deals with its recyclable waste”.
“What might have been a difficult transition to make has actually been embraced very well,” he said.
“This is the biggest jump in recycling figures we have ever had. We need to thank the people of Cardiff as a whole – it’s down to the fact that they have embraced this change that we have seen such an impact.”
The WAO report, meanwhile, found recycling rates in Wales are increasing, but it says longer-term improvements are being hindered by substantial barriers to achieving the Welsh Government’s waste strategy.
The report highlights the difficulties caused by conflicting views between the Welsh Government and local authorities – including Cardiff council – about how best to recycle.
The Welsh Government believes kerbside recycling and sorting is the best method for producing high quality waste material and dislikes “co-mingling” dry waste, such as bottles, cans and card.
However, Cardiff is among a number of councils that believes it’s easier for the public to co-mingle and modern equipment can sort the waste to sufficient quality and at a similar cost.
Auditor General for Wales Huw Vaughan Thomas said: “It is clear that the public are engaging more in recycling waste, and the Welsh Government and local authorities should be commended for their efforts over the past six years to encourage this.
“But the momentum will be lost unless there is significant change in some areas.We need to see better guidance from Welsh Government. Local authorities should get smarter in the way they collect data. And, most importantly, councils and government must work together to build agreement around the best methods of collecting waste.”