The Welsh Government could set a target for councils to recycle 80% of its municipal waste by 2035, according to Hannah Blythyn AM, Welsh Minister for Environment, speaking today (14 March) at the CIWM Resource Conference Cymru.
The event had as its theme ‘The Welsh Green Economy’ and in her keynote address the minster spoke about Welsh Government’s current plans to maintain progress towards a more sustainable future and the development of the Welsh green economy through the new Economic Action Plan.
She told delegates how Wales will retain a focus on generating high-quality recyclate to “get our own house in order”, and that the country will also be looking into the potential impact of the Chinese waste import restrictions on Wales.
The minister announced the Welsh Government is also working on an “enhanced” behaviour change project to help further reduce the amount of waste that is recyclable being sent to landfill, and that it will this year publish an independent evaluation of its waste strategy in order to “take stock”.
Hannah Blythyn AM, Welsh Minister for Environment – “In Wales we take our duty to achieve sustainable development very seriously. We’ve extended our lead as the best household waste recycling nation in the UK to 12% above the UK average, putting us second in Europe and third in the world.”
This review will include looking at a potential target for councils to recycle 80% of municipal waste by 2035, and will also look into alternative targets around carbon and specific wastes.
The minister announced the Welsh Government will also be looking at potentially updating current local authority recycling targets to align with the new EU definition of municipal waste.
With regard to food waste and the country’s proposed target to half the amount generated by 2025, Wales is also looking to align itself with what the EU and the UN are doing in regards to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The Minister also spoke about Wales’ recent recycling success and how it is investing in recycling services to enable local authorities to continue to deliver improvements:
“In Wales we take our duty to achieve sustainable development very seriously. We’ve extended our lead as the best household waste recycling nation in the UK to 12% above the UK average, putting us second in Europe and third in the world.”
“I also recently confirmed I am awarding over £7.5 million pounds to support improvements in recycling services throughout Wales, which will help achieve our goal of zero waste by 2050.”
Extended Producer Responsibility
One of the hot topics for the day was Producer Responsibility, starting with Wales’ Plastics Route Map and exploring what actions Welsh local authorities can take to drive the circular economy. Insight from expert speakers from WRAP and the plastics industry was complemented by practical approaches for local authorities from Nigel Wheeler, Director of Highways and Streetcare Services at Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC.
Looking at opportunities for Wales to further develop its own environmental legislation, particularly in the context of Brexit, the second session explored the role of extended producer responsibility (EPR) and how Wales might use fiscal measures to incentivise more sustainable product design and stewardship.
EPR should ‘shift’ the financial burden from taxpayers to producers and consumers – not necessarily increase it – and also incentivise design and use of recycled content, said Dr Chris Sherrington, Head of Environmental Policy and Economics, Eunomia. He said EPR can’t reduce consumption and prevent waste… to do that you need a tax.
China’s national sword “hasn’t really hit home yet” said Carl Nichols, Head of WRAP Cymru during the same session. He spoke about Wales’ upcoming plastics routemap, to be published in June this year, and the gap between plastic waste and reprocessing. The routemap is expected to focus predominantly on quality, developing infrastructure and increasing demand within the country.
Carl said workshops have been held on barriers to plastics recycling, including behaviour change, which he said often focuses on householders but that working with organisations and business to change their behaviour is just as difficult.
The future of residual waste was next, with a session exploring whether Wales has sufficient infrastructure for the future, the potential impact of Brexit on waste RDF exports, and how the new Landfill Disposals Tax will work in practice.
Stuart Hayward-Higham, Technical Development Director, SUEZ R&R UK spoke about the need to consider resilience around residual waste, and Jenna Harris from the Welsh Revenue Authority answered tough questions about what will happen to the money generated from the new Landfill Disposals Tax – details regarding the communities scheme that will distribute the money will be published soon, it was revealed.
Andrew Wilkinson, Head of Neighbourhood Services for Conwy County Borough Council ended the session by announcing that as of yesterday (13 March) the council will be moving ahead with the implementation of a four-weekly residual waste collection.
The day finished with two interactive workshops. Gearing up for new regulations expected under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 Part 4 (Collection and Disposal of Waste Regulations), the first looked at best practice in segregation and separate collection from businesses, while the second focused on planning, capacity and decision making in the face of current uncertainty about the future.