RECYCLING rates across Wales fell last year for the first time in two decades with all but one Gwent council reporting a decline in collection figures.

A Welsh Government report reveals the amount of municipal waste collected by local authorities dropped from 63.8 per cent to 62.7 per cent between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

The figures account for household and non-household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting divided by the total amount of waste in tonnes collected by, or on behalf, of councils.

Caerphilly council was the only Gwent authority to report improved figures with their rates rising from 65.5 per cent to 66.7 per cent.

At 56 per cent, Blaenau Gwent has the lowest recycling rate in Wales for the fourth year running, having failed to hit the national target of 58 per cent last year.

Welsh environment minister Hannah Blythyn described the national decrease, which has seen 17 of 22 local authorities report reduced rates, as ‘disappointing’.

But Ms Blythyn says this is partly due to a change in how NRW reports wood and ash when they are taken to recycling centres.

“Our recycling rate of nearly 63 per cent is still well above our national target of 58 per cent for this year,” said the minister.

“We are incredibly proud of our recycling performance in Wales.”

The Welsh Government is expecting all local authorities to meet a statutory recycling target of 64 per cent in 2019/20, and 70 per cent in 2024/25.

Newport council, which saw their rates drop fall from 61.4 per cent to 59.8 per cent, face a £367,373 fine if they miss next year’s targets.

READ MORE: Newport council face £1.5m fine if recycling aims fall short

A further £1.2 million fine could await the council if they fall short in 2024/25, having had two fines waived against them in recent years.

But a spokeswoman said: “Newport council’s recycling rate has increased dramatically over the last 15 years and the city is now one of the best performing in the UK.

“However further increases will be needed to meet the higher targets set by Welsh Government.”

In Caerphilly, the statistics coincide with the 20th anniversary of the council’s kerbside collection scheme for recycling.

Councillor Nigel George, cabinet member for neighbourhood services, praised residents for helping the authority exceed the ‘ambitious’ recycling targets.

“There’s still work to do, but by continuing to work together we can further boost our recycling rates and help Caerphilly continue to be one of the greenest places in Wales,” said Cllr George.

In Monmouthshire and Torfaen, both councils said the new NRW measures had affected their recycling rates but said they were on track to meet 2019/2020 targets.

Torfaen, which is currently developing a waste strategy which could see residents fined for putting recyclable items in with household waste, dropped from 63.6 per cent to 60.6 per cent.

Recycling rates in Monmouthshire dropped from 68.7 per cent – the third highest in Wales in 2016/17 – to 65.8 per cent.

A council spokesman added: “In the past six months the amount of garden waste we collect for recycling has reduced significantly due to hot weather.”

Blaenau Gwent council staff have been told to physically check the content of every bag of rubbish taken to the New Vale recycling centre in Ebbw Vale in a bid to reach targets.

Blaenau Gwent council was asked for comment but did not respond before time of publication.