How we manage our natural resources, including waste, directly affects each and every one of us in Wales and driving this agenda forward is undoubtedly a challenging task.
Protecting and making the most of Wales’s natural resources is my top priority and it is essential that our waste is no longer seen as rubbish which needs to be buried in the ground, but as valuable resources which can be used to benefit business and the people of Wales.
Waste as a valuable resource is the principle which guides our waste and recycling policies and has driven us to make such significant progress in this area. By standing firm on our ambitious policies, Wales is now leading the UK in terms of waste management.
Wales is also the only UK country with statutory targets for municipal recycling. In June 2010 we launched our ambitious waste strategy, Towards Zero Waste, which challenged Wales’s local authorities to achieve 52% recycling by 2012/13, 70% by 2025 and to become a zero waste nation by 2050.
Wales is well on track to meet its first statutory target, having achieved 54% recycling between July and September 2012. This is very much down to the fact that Wales is also the only country in the UK where every local authority offers a separate food waste collection, covering nine out of ten households.
As the first UK country to introduce the Landfill Allowances Scheme, Wales has made significant progress in diverting biodegradable waste from landfill. Since the scheme was introduced in 2004, each of Wales’s 22 local authorities has reached every target to date.
We have achieved a great deal in the past 10 years but must not rest on our laurels. We need to harness the value of all of Wales’s recycled material in order to limit its environmental impact and strengthen our economy.
Increasing the volume, quality and range of recyclate from business is one of my top priorities and I intend to build on the actions set out in the Collections, Infrastructure and Markets (CIM) sector plan to make better use of recycled materials to reduce business costs, secure and create new jobs and provide raw materials for manufacturing – creating a circular economy.
Welsh businesses must have better access to collection services and treatment facilities. This is why I recently launched the ongoing consultation on the Industrial and Commercial sector plan which seeks to make recycling easier for Welsh businesses and sets out proposed support to help them prevent waste and do business in a more sustainable and affordable way.
The financial, social and environmental impacts of waste are a huge challenge and, although we have made great steps in improving the way we deal with our rubbish, this is only part of the solution. The greatest benefits will come from reducing the amount of waste that we create in our everyday activities.
In March I launched proposals for consultation that will help people and businesses in Wales reduce the amount of waste they produce. There are significant financial savings to be made by preventing waste – from people repairing products to businesses re-using resources and developing innovative ways to prevent waste.
If waste prevention targets are met, Wales could benefit from savings of up to £70 million each year by 2025, increasing to £100 million each year by 2050.
I am committed to protecting Wales’s natural resources and maximising its benefit for the people of Wales and will work hard to ensure that this is an opportunity that we do not overlook.
Alun Davies, minister for natural resources in Wales