(Title Image: Chartered Institute of Waste Management)
Following figures released last week which showed a surprise fall in municipal recycling rates in Wales, yesterday the Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn (Lab, Delyn) explained the situation to AMs and provided pointers as to where to focus attention on next.
The Minister explained the drop in recycling rates was down to stricter Welsh Government monitoring and reporting of wood waste and missed opportunities to recycle incinerator ash from waste incinerators. There was clearly more to do.
An additional £75.5million will be invested over the next three years to improve recycling collections and provide additional waste infrastructure. Work will also continue with local authorities to widen the types of materials recycled; the Minister expects this will get Wales back on track to hit a 70% recycling rate by 2025.
Other options – some of which were deemed better dealt with at a UK level – include a deposit return scheme (a report on which is due in spring 2019), placing an extended producer responsibility for packaging (to cover the costs of recycling packaging materials) and the possible introduction of a single-use plastics tax.
“Any plastics tax must be co-designed with Welsh Government. If nothing is raised in the autumn budget on 29 October, this will be a significant missed opportunity, and we will consider again what can be done on a Wales-only basis with the levers we have, including the possibility of a Wales-wide levy or charge on single-use beverage containers.”
– Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn
Shadow Environment Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) said there was broad consensus on recycling and what to do, but there were still concerns on how waste – particularly plastics – was processed given recent exposure of fraud in English recycling businesses.
“I do think it’s important that we go beyond domestic waste recycling and start to look at business waste. So, I do welcome the fact that there will be regulations to require the separation of waste at business premises. I think consultation on regs is very important, but I do think there should be participation also with the business organisations very directly involved.”
– Shadow Environment Minister, David Melding AM
Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) expressed the urgent need to deal with plastics, particularly those that make their way into the sea. He also raised concerns over fraud in plastic recycling, but the longer-term solution was reducing waste production.
“Of course, all of this increasingly shows that, rather than just recycling, we really need to seek to prevent the use of plastics, particularly single-use plastics, in the first place….We’re still waiting to get to that point where (a single-use plastics tax and deposit return scheme) is being implemented, and we’ve heard reference over a number of years in my time here in the Assembly to how this has worked in other countries: over 98 per cent of bottles recycled in Germany, over 90 per cent in Norway, Sweden and Finland etc.”
– Llyr Gruffydd AM
The Minister agreed there was an appetite for both deposit return and a single-use tax, but neither should be seen as a panacea. Refills were also being looked at to increase the use of reusable bottles, and Refill Cymru app is now available.