Waste being sorted by people in hi-viz vests, face masks and hard hats

Composition analysis of Commercial and Industrial waste in Wales

24th January 2020
Main changes since 2007
An increase in the proportion of plastics (7.9%)
An increase in the proportion of organic matter (2.9%)
A decrease in the proportion of paper & board (6.6%)
A decrease in the proportion of miscellaneous waste (3.1%)

This study was conducted to provide Welsh Government and WRAP Cymru up-to-date data on the composition of mixed residual commercial and industrial (C&I) waste in Wales. The main objective was to estimate the proportion of the residual waste produced in Wales which could be avoided through recycling or composting.

The survey analysed 108 samples of residual waste, accounting for 26 tonnes of material: 13 of waste landfilled directly, 60 destined for energy recovery and 35 from transfer stations. 64 were identified as commercial waste, six were identified as industrial waste and the remaining 38 were mixed C&I waste.

Executive summary

This study was conducted to provide Welsh Government (WG) and WRAP Cymru up-to-date data on the composition of commercial and industrial (C&I) waste in Wales. 

The objectives of the work were to estimate the total C&I waste arisings, analyse the findings by source and material type, and to estimate the proportion of materials which could have been avoided through recycling or composting. The findings will be used to inform policy and the design of relevant interventions.  

The methodology applied broadly followed that used in the 2007 study ‘Determination of the Biodegradability of Mixed Industrial and Commercial Waste Landfilled in Wales’ (Environment Agency Wales, 2007). 

Sampling of commercial and industrial waste was undertaken at four main sites: Pwllfawatkin landfill, Swansea Baling Plant, Cardiff Energy Recovery Facility and Bessemer Close transfer station. Waste sampled at these locations was either received directly from collectors or transferred from other sites. It was not possible to identify a site in the North of the Country with adequate facilities to accommodate fieldwork.

The survey analysed a total of 108 samples: 13 of waste landfilled directly, 60 destined for energy recovery and 35 from transfer stations. Of the samples analysed, 64 could be identified as commercial waste and 6 could be identified as industrial, the remaining 38 were mixed C&I waste. Samples were classified as EWC code 191212 (21) and 200301 (87). In total, 26 tonnes of material was sampled and analysed. 

Total quantities of commercial and industrial waste were estimated by subtracting the total input of local authority collected household waste (taken from WasteDataFlow) from the quantity of MSW received at each facility (obtained from Natural Resource Wales Facility Returns). These data were then combined with the composition data to estimate the quantities of different materials.

Results of the composition analysis are summarised in Figure 1. 

Paper and board was the most commonly found material, accounting for 25.7% of the C&I waste analysed. A further 22.7% of the material analysed was plastics, while 20.1% was miscellaneous and 17.9% was organic material.

The main changes since 2007 have been an increase in the proportion of plastics and organic matter (by 7.9% and 2.9% respectively)1 alongside a decrease in the proportion of paper and board and miscellaneous waste (by 6.6% and 3.1% respectively). 

The analysis included an assessment of the proportion of the material that was potentially recyclable or compostable. The materials deemed potentially recyclable were aligned with the 2007 report for comparability and are shown in Appendix 4. The majority of the residual waste analysed (74.5% +/- 2.4%, or an estimated 450,478 tonnes annually) could have potentially been avoided. This represents a small decrease from 2007 (with 77% recyclable or compostable found in residual C&I waste).  

Of the 452,258 tonnes of materials which could be diverted from the residual waste stream, edible food waste was the most prevalent, with an estimated arising of 68,679 tonnes per annum. As a further 22,062 tonnes of materials were inedible food waste, food waste represented the highest proportion of materials (and 15% of the total waste arisings) which could potentially be diverted from residual waste streams. Packaging film accounted for 54,663 tonnes, cardboard for 40,073 tonnes, and construction and demolition (C & D) waste arisings were estimated at 25,014 tonnes of the total materials which could have been diverted from residual waste streams.  

The biodegradability of the average waste was assessed using calculations described in Environment Agency’s guidance on the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS)2, as shown in Appendix 5. The calculated average biodegradability of the waste analysed was 57% (+/-2%), slightly lower than the 61% (+/- 3%) biodegradability calculated in the 2007 analysis.

 

 1 Changes in composition are expressed as changes in the percentage of the total composition (sometimes referred to as “percentage points”), rather than growth relative to a baseline value, unless stated otherwise. For example, an increase from 5% to 10% would be described as an increase of 5% (rather than 100%).

 2 Environment Agency (2006) Guidance on the landfill allowance schemes: municipal waste