At the moment we are in a reasonably good place but we can get to a better place. I’m reasonably confident of our record. I’ve think we are beginning to change a culture of how we do business, that’s absolutely essential. There is a clear story being told in Wales and one that is unfolding.
My concern is that we channel all this into a positive way and we move towards our ambitions in terms of zero waste and the circular economy, in terms of enabling people to derive not just a sense of wellbeing but profit as a consequence. It’s important we don’t simply talk about the theory of a circular economy but that we can deliver it in practice. Circular economy sounds like a PhD thesis but when you talk to a guy on assembly line you can see the reality of it.
Where we’ve struggled in the past is that we’ve not always succeeded in making connections with people’s life experiences. So we say make sure you do your recycling on a weekly basis but we haven’t said what happens to it afterwards, and what benefits do you as a family or a community derive.
But we have been successful in doing is putting in place the processes and mechanisms to enable us to start demonstrating that a real change is taking place in Wales.
The history of the 21st century is business overtaking government in terms of understanding the importance of a zero waste policy and waste management for their own bottom lines.
As Governments we are running to keep up with some businesses who are making enormous strides. It strikes me how much these big businesses have really changed attitudes and processes in the last decade. They are doing it in a way some public authorities are finding it hard to understand.
The Wales Bill as it is currently constituted will provide for the establishment of different areas of taxation. If we have the opportunity to use resource taxation as a positive tool for change in how we do business and to bring Wales into line with a lot of what other countries do elsewhere in the world then we have great opportunities to work with business to deliver a very different environment.
I reject the argument that if you share a border with another territory or country such as England then you cannot do what you want to do on this side of the border [for example, different landfill tax rates]. It can drive change and behavioural change but I see that as a positive thing and not as a threat.
We haven’t had an debate about how we would use these new powers or new taxes but when we do have our active debate I think we should have a positive debate about how we use these different tools in order to create a business environment that is positive but does it in a way that contributes to green growth and wider climate change objectives.
On pay as you throw and council targets
We are looking at an environment bill at the end of the year, beginning of the next. We will be saying we want to create a statutory framework that enables us to deliver on our wider zero waste ambitions. At the moment we have no proposals for that sort of punitive approach [pay as you throw].
Have you any idea what would happen to me when I go home if I started telling local authorities how to manage their waste collections? What am I anxious to do is create the impetus, framework and the drive.
I never shy away from targets. You have to manage what you do and be able to understand whether you are delivering or not. That’s different from a punitive approach – it is proactive.
So it when it comes to do we collect our black bags on a weekly, two-weekly or monthly basis that’s really a matter for local authorities and I would hesitate for a very, very long time before I started walking into town halls up and down Wales telling them how they manage their waste collections.
On the Environment Bill
I’d like to have a bill that I can put in front of members earlier rather than later. By the time we get to the beginning of 2015 we will be a year away from dissolution so my concern would be to have enough flexibility to ensure we get the legislation through on the stature book before March 2016. But I’m not sure we will be able to bring it forward because we are dealing with a lot of legislation at the moment. Certainly I anticipate being able to publish at the beginning of next year then take it through the Assembly in 2015 and reaching the statute book by 2016.
My approach is to emphasise simplicity and ease of working. I’m not obsessed with process; I’m not obsessed with delivering new fangled ways of working. I’m obsessed with what helps people to recycle. Any system we create in Wales will be rooted in that. Making life easy for householders to recycle and for business to work in a clear coherent way that is understood by business and supports and entrenches a very positive environment. We don’t want to smother industry by regulation but we want to create a regulatory framework that enables business to make a profit and wealth in ways that add to the zero waste ambition.
On the future
We have the potential in Wales to create green growth in a way no other territory or part of the UK is going to do or can do. And that is to bring together a lot of different initiatives to create a package that is pro-business, pro-economic growth, pro local energy generation in a way that has sustainability at its heart.
The prize of achieving that is great and it is within our grasp.
Welsh Government’s resource minister Alun Davies