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We’ve won UK gold and now want to beat Europe

Are there any specific targets for decarbonising the public sector?

Wales is first in the UK and fourth in Europe for recycling as a whole. We have got a really good story to tell in terms of municipal waste collection.

Already, through the measurements in Scotland, we can see that there is a definite link between consumption and carbon emissions, and we are looking to regulate that through the Environment (Wales) Bill. We do not have any specific targets, but we know that a reduction will certainly bring a significant benefit.

The issue is making sure that we get the Environment Bill proposals in operation and doing that will have a positive effect on decarbonisation.

How will you go about banning recyclates from landfill?

We have to be realistic about this. We accept that some issues around recycling are not cost effective. But if some people think it is acceptable for 20% plus of materials to go into landfill, we do not agree. The issue for me is how we remove at source to give companies quality recyclates where they will get value for money from what they sell on.

How do you intend to go about enforcing separate collections for businesses that do not like regulation?

I accept that but, sometimes, governments and organisations have to make regulations for these things to happen. Of course businesses do not always like regulation but, believe me, some are already waking up, smelling the coffee and realising that we should have done this years ago because there are economic benefits for our country.

Do you intend to introduce producer responsibility for products so that manufacturers would be obliged to spend more money on recycling?

Elements of that are devolved and others are not. We have to make sure that, where it is devolved, companies abide by the Courtauld Agreement. We have to make sure that packaging is minimal and is prevented where possible.

I am keen to push forward on producers taking responsibility for their packaging although it is also about working with Welsh manufacturers to help them produce better products.  

What about the carrot and stick approach when it comes to encouraging residents to recycle properly?

I think we should push a bit harder with our communities because engagement is really good. Councils – and the relationship between the Welsh Government and communities – are critical to making sure that we all understand the reasoning behind active engagement in recycling.

So introducing fines is not necessarily on the radar?

I’m not in that space and I don’t think we need to be. We have a relatively good relationship with our communities here in Wales because people understand their personal impact on the areas around them. Our recycling rate has been very positive because people do take ownership, which is why the fine issue is not on the radar.  

Have you considered adopting a countrywide waste authority similar to proposals made by your Northern Ireland counterpart?

The reorganisation issue is a matter for the local government minister. It raises issues about how we collaborate services and how we are able to integrate services across political boundaries. There are some great examples of authorities in Wales where they are collaborating in how they dispose of waste, how some of the collections are made and how they work together to get the best prices for some of the recyclates.

So we do not operate entirely in isolation on waste. Are there more improvements to be made? Absolutely, especially in our procurement and delivery services. Our collections blueprint gives us direction as to how that can be delivered. Half of authorities are already adopting that proposal, and I would hope that we could encourage all of them to take it up because there are considerable savings to be made.

Where do you see Wales this time next year in terms of waste policy?

I’m going to go for gold here: I expect us to be still leading the UK, and I would certainly like us to be creeping up from fourth in Europe.

Carl Sargeant is Welsh minister for natural resources


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