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Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs

First published:
2 March 2021
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

I am delighted to be publishing Beyond Recycling - a strategy to make the circular economy in Wales a reality today. The publication of Wales’ first circular economy strategy comes at an important time.

Wales has already developed an international reputation for our world class recycling, with our national recycling rate having now reached over 65%. But whilst recycling remains a key component, this Strategy is about much more.  It sets out how we plan to go beyond recycling, by moving to a circular economy where we keep resources in use and avoid all waste - for the benefit of our economy and our communities, as well as in response to the environmental imperatives.

The pandemic has had a major impact on how we live, Brexit has changed how we trade with our closest neighbours and climate change is bringing more extreme weather events to Wales. How we manage resources has consequently never been more important and it has also brought home how the things we need and use cannot be taken for granted. Shorter supply chains, and realising the full value in the resources we use, and thereby improving our economic resilience are as key to our recovery from the pandemic. This is also important in mitigating the impacts of Brexit and to action on climate change and reducing waste.

Amongst the unprecedented challenges we face, there are important signs of positive change and crucially, therefore, opportunities. Over the last year, we have seen individuals, social enterprises and businesses across Wales coming together to take action to care for their communities and each other. Going forward, it is vital we continue to do so in a way which lays the foundation for a green recovery, with a circular economy being one of the elements at its heart.

The transition to a circular economy in Wales has already started and this strategy is focused on accelerating our progress to achieve a zero waste, net zero carbon Wales. Last year, we engaged over 2,000 people across Wales as part of the consultation, asking for their ideas on how Wales can move towards a circular economy and use only our fair share of the world’s resources. Important contributions included those from the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee and the Welsh Youth Parliament.

The strategy is focused around six core themes of activity.

  • Driving innovation in materials use
  • Upscaling prevention and re-use
  • Building on our recycling record
  • Investing in infrastructure
  • Enabling community and business action
  • Aligning Government levers

We have also set out eight ambitious headline actions.

  • We will support businesses in Wales to reduce their carbon footprint by becoming more resource efficient.
  • We will provide the tools to enable community action.
  • We will phase out unnecessary single-use items, especially plastic.
  • We will eradicate avoidable food waste.
  • We will procure on a basis which prioritises goods and products which are made from remanufactured, refurbished and recycled materials or come from low carbon and sustainable materials like wood. 
  • We will strive to achieve the highest rates of recycling in the world.
  • We will reduce the environmental impact of the waste collection from our homes and businesses.
  • We will take full responsibility for our waste.

They set out not only our commitment to use the powers and levers of Government to accelerate our transition to a circular, low carbon economy, but also our commitment to work in partnership with all sectors to deliver those actions. 

When we launched the consultation, recognising the need to accelerate action in the face of the climate emergency and global biodiversity crisis, we committed to doing so from the outset. This is why over the last year, we have rapidly expanded our Circular Economy Fund from an initial £6.5m to £43 million, now having been made available to support 180 projects in every part of Wales. From the cutting edge Remakerspace at Cardiff University working with business to improve product design, to a repair shed supporting the local community in Llangollen and Capital Valley Plastics in Torfaen who have been supported to produce damp proof course from recycled film which would otherwise go to waste.

In the transition to a circular economy, there will be challenges and barriers to overcome but our track record as a nation on recycling shows by working together we can achieve the transformational change needed. Every child leaving school now will have only ever known a Wales which recycles – it is now a part of our culture and that gives us a solid foundation for accelerated action. 

Alongside the strategy, we are publishing a suite of accompanying documents including impact assessments and an easy read version. In launching these documents, we are also committed to continuing the conversation with citizens and stakeholders to maximise our efforts and we will be running a series of webinars as part of this process.

The publication of this strategy is a continuation of our journey which has already seen Wales become a recycling nation. Taking the next steps on our pathway towards a zero waste, low carbon Wales has never been more important; but we have already shown we can deliver.