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Welsh local government warns of 'overly prescriptive' separate collections

Proposals to add three more waste streams to separate collections in Wales could create expensive service charges for councils in Wales, local authorities have warned.

The Environment Bill White Paper, put forward by Welsh minister for natural resources and food Alun Davies, recommends extending the requirement for separate collection of paper, glass, metal and plastic to include card, wood and food wastes.

A Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) spokesman said local government supported the “broad aims” of the proposal, but urged that it “will need to be looked at closely in terms of how it could be actioned ‘on the ground’, as it does have the potential to create a number of significant and expensive service changes for councils in Wales”.

He added that waste requires significant planning and investment in machinery and equipment as well as awareness programmes for residents.

He said: “If we are to maintain local support and ensure the continued growth of recycling in Wales, we have a duty to minimise disruption to local residents and schemes”. He added an “overly prescriptive” approach should be avoided.

But Ray Georgeson, chief executive of the Resource Association, the trade association for reprocessing and recycling industries, welcomed the White Paper and said: “The Welsh Government is proposing some bold measures and sending clear market signals to boost resource capture and recycling.

“Provided such measures are also complemented by a strong eco-industrial strategic approach to building business that can effectively utilise high quality recovered resources we see merit in the clarity of these market signals.”

Campaign for Real Recycling chair Mal Williams told MRW: “The right way of recycling is to collect everything separately. It’s all very sensible and very practical.”

He highlighted that seven separate waste streams would not require seven different bins, adding: “The key thing is that the professional operatives take the (recyclates) out of the boxes and transfer them to the truck separately.”

Williams said the Welsh Government has “already introduced separate food waste collections to over 90% of the Welsh households very successfully and that is what has driven the Welsh performance way beyond the English performance”.

Commenting on whether the Welsh proposals could impact on English legislation, former WRAP director Phillip Ward told MRW: “It could provide a very useful test bed to gather data on costs and residual waste levels.”

He echoed Williams’ comment that seven bins would not be necessary, however, and said there could be practical issues with the configuration of collection vehicles to accommodate the separate streams.

According to the WLGA many Welsh councils are already collecting wood and card separately at their Civic Amenity sites.

Other key elements of the White Paper include:

  • Separation of waste by the waste producer
  • Energy-from-waste bans for key materials
  • Landfill bans for key materials
  • Disposal of waste food to sewer
  • Minimum charges other types of carrier bags in addition to the current single-use carrier bag minimum charge
  • Allowing retailer to apply proceeds of bag charges to any good causes, rather than to environmental good causes only

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