The fact that Wales is recycling more than half of its municipal waste is a significant achievement of which I am very proud. However, tackling household waste is only part of the battle. We need to harness the value of all of Wales’s recycled material in order to limit its environmental impact and strengthen our economy.
We recognise that the expanding market for recycled materials creates opportunities to generate green jobs and safeguard existing positions through cost savings and greater resource efficiency. This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to overlook in today’s difficult economic times.
Last year I launched the Collections, Infrastructure and Markets (CIMs) sector plan, which set out how the Welsh Government is working towards retaining the value of recycled material in Wales to benefit the Welsh economy.
The plan outlines how the Welsh economy can best provide sustainable, high quality recyclate that can be reprocessed within Wales. It also describes the actions needed to expand Wales’s capacity to make better use of recycled materials to reduce business costs, secure and create jobs and provide raw materials for manufacturing.
As set out in the plan, it is vitally important that we get our collection systems right to maximise recycling rates and reduce the amount we send to landfill. Kerbside sorting is the Welsh Government’s preferred method of recycling collection as evidence shows it reduces residual waste, results in the collection of high levels of clean recyclate, is cost effective and promotes wider economic and environmental benefits.
The collection of high quality recyclate is central to our plans as it can be reprocessed here in Wales - retaining our resources, sustaining local employment and stimulating Welsh markets, as opposed to exporting poor quality recyclate for treatment oversees.
The CIMs sector plan also addresses the issue of business recycling. Businesses face a number of barriers when looking to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill. All local authorities in Wales provide a range of recycling services for businesses. However, the provision of recycling collection services to businesses across Wales varies greatly, which means that many businesses are unable to realise the full recycling potential of their waste.
A recent Environment Agency’ survey found that the recycling rate for commercial waste in Wales is 37% and declining. This shows just how far we have to go to meet our 70% recycling target by 2025. We need to take action to ensure Welsh businesses have better access to collection services and treatment facilities in order to increase the volume, quality and range of recyclate from business.
As well as greatly benefitting the environment, introducing more sustainable waste management practices will see businesses reap their own rewards – increasing their resilience against insecurity in the supply of resources and rising costs.
For businesses, resource insecurity and efficiency are pressing issues which need to be addressed. Last November, we launched the Construction and Demolition (C&D) sector plan which seeks to help the industry prepare for such issues. It sets out how we will work with the industry to help them change the way they operate so that they benefit from cost savings and greater consistency in the supply chain, as well as increasing their recycling rates and reducing waste.
The Welsh construction industry is a large consumer of natural resources, producing a staggering 12.2 million tonnes of waste each year. This level of waste is totally unsustainable and so the C&D sector plan provides advice and guidance to the sector to help it operate in a more environmentally friendly way.
The plan sets out challenging waste prevention and recycling targets and makes recommendations on how to manage waste to achieve more sustainable and affordable outcomes for the construction industry – including builders, trades people and suppliers.
Our ultimate aim is to turn high quality recycled waste into a valuable resource that does not cause environmental harm. The plan also offers financial benefits for construction and demolition companies - something that is very important in today’s tough times.
As one of our overarching actions of the C&D sector plan, I recently launched a consultation to seek views on the introduction of Site Waste Management Plans that will encourage people working in the construction and demolition sector to plan their developments to prevent, minimise and recycle waste.
Site Waste Management Plans will be an important tool for the construction and demolition sector, providing a framework that enables greater resource efficiency, waste reduction, recycling and re-use of waste.
The regulations will place a requirement on developers, builders and contractors to produce a plan which considers the waste produced during each project and set out the measures they will take to minimise such waste.
The consultation will last 12 weeks and conclude at the end of April. We are hoping to receive comments from people throughout the industry on a range of issues including the scope, content and enforcement of Site Waste Management Plans. I encourage anyone who has a view on the regulations to take part in the consultation and help shape the plans
The Welsh Government is driving towards ridding business of excessive bureaucracy and, as such, we have worked with industry representatives throughout the process to minimise any potential burdens the regulations may pose on the industry. We are also confident that any additional work caused by the Site Waste Management Plans will be outweighed by the cost savings that can result from introducing more sustainable waste practices.
I understand that increasing business costs and the shortage of raw materials are very real concerns for businesses – this is especially true for the manufacturing industry.
To help address this, in January the Welsh Government provided additional funding of over £300,000 to help manufacturers reduce their bills and tackle resource insecurity by using recycled content. The package of support, delivered by WRAP Cymru, offers small and medium manufacturing companies up to £10,000 of tailored consultancy support to help them identify whether they could benefit from using recycled content.
Using recycled materials instead of virgin materials is a way of mitigating risk, as well as significantly cutting material costs. It is vitally important that recycled material is seen as a valuable resource which can greatly benefit businesses in Wales through substantial cost savings and ensuring continuity in the supply of raw materials.
Looking ahead to 2013, one of the major upcoming issues is the resolution of the Judicial Review into recycling collection methods. The hearing is scheduled for the end of February and will conclude whether or not the Welsh Government and Defra have correctly transposed the revised EU Waste Framework Directive.
I look forward to having the situation resolved. I believe, however, that regardless of the outcome, we need to move towards more sustainable waste management practices in Wales that maximise environment and social befits, while minimising cost.