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Jane Davidson, Minister for the Environment, Sustainability and Housing

First published:
22 March 2011
Last updated:

This was published under the 2007 to 2011 administration of the Welsh Government

Today I open consultation on the Food Manufacture, Service and Retail Sector Plan for waste, the third of a series of plans which sets out exactly what Wales as a nation will do to reach our ambition of recycling 70 per cent of our waste by 2025 and being zero waste by 2050. I want to take this opportunity to update you on the huge advances we have made in the way we deal with our waste in recent years.

These advances are illustrated in the significant increase in recycling rates for Municipal Waste. In 2000-01 Wales recycled 7 per cent of its Municipal Waste; our most recent figures show that we achieved 45 per cent recycling in July-September 2010. The total amount of waste we produce also continues to decrease.
3 local authorities recycled 52 per cent of their municipal waste or more in July-September 2010; if their annual performance continues at this rate they will already be meeting or exceeding the statutory target for 2012-2013. Several local authorities also saw significant increases in their recycling rate as the result of adopting new recycling services. Most notable is Bridgend, with an 18 percentage point increase on the same period the previous year.

Impressive though these achievements are, we still have a long way to go to reach 70 per cent recycling by 2025, which is why Wales has become the first country in the UK to introduce statutory targets for municipal recycling. This legislation formed part of the Waste (Wales) Measure, which was passed by the Assembly in November 2010 as the first Measure under the Environment Legislative Competence Order (LCO).

We have already experienced success in using statutory targets to divert waste from landfill. Wales was the first country in the UK to adopt the Landfill Allowances Scheme to divert biodegradable waste – including food waste – from landfill. All 22 local authorities in Wales have met every target since the scheme was launched in October 2004; none have been subject to fines.

The Municipal Sector Plan – along with the associated Collections Blueprint - sets out what the Assembly Government expects from our local authorities in the coming years, and what we will do to support them. Central to our plans is a change management programme to help local authorities adopt the most sustainable and cost-effective recycling services, which will also produce the highest quality recyclate (or end product).

This is important because the quality of recyclate can determine whether it can be processed here in Wales or sent abroad. At the launch of the Collections, Infrastructure and Markets sector plan consultation on 10 March I met Andrew Izod, the Managing Director of Excel Industries in Rhymney. Andrew told councillors how his business relies on a steady flow of high quality recycled newspaper to produce its key product, loft insulation. He would like to source all of this raw material from here in Wales, but this is not possible because of the poor quality of recyclate as a result of the paper being co-collected with other recyclable materials. As a result, he has to buy it from abroad, with increased costs for the business.  What he needs is newspaper waste to be kept separate, and then collected separately by the Local Authority.

This is not an isolated situation. Several years ago a plastic strapping manufacturer warned the Assembly Government that its business was being adversely affected by the costs of importing recycled plastic flake from overseas. At the same time, most plastic bottles in Wales which could have provided the raw materials for this company were either landfilled or sent to China. My Department provided funding from the Regional Access Capital Fund (RCAF) for a new mixed plastics sorting facility, which not only keeps plastics here in Wales to be used as raw materials by industry, but provided new jobs for a Valleys community.

The Collections, Infrastructure and Markets plan sets out proposals for further developing a market for recyclate here in Wales, so that we can become world-leaders in the resource management industry. Meeting all the targets in the plan will mean savings of £88 million per year by 2025.

Today I will visit the new anaerobic digestion facility at the RF Brookes food factory near Newport, to announce the consultation on the Food Manufacture, Service and Retail sector plan. As the most sustainable method of managing food waste, anaerobic digestion is an important part of our waste strategy, and we aim to reach capacity by 2013.

Wales is already the only country in the UK where every council provides a separate food or food and green waste collection. We provided £34 million between 2009 and 2011 to expand the service; now at least 80 per cent of homes now benefit from this, and we are aiming for 100%. Collecting food waste separately means it can be diverted from landfill, where it decomposes to produce methane – a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  Instead we want to send food waste to anaerobic digestion plants that generate renewable fuel and a valuable fertiliser. We have an extensive programme in place to support the procurement of new AD plants in Wales. Separate food waste collections also help householders see how much food waste they produce so that they can make steps to change this. The average family spends £12 a week on perfectly edible food which ends up in the bin.

It is important though, that the burden of reducing food and packaging waste does not rest solely with householders. The food manufacture, service and retail sectors together generate 40 per cent of our industrial and commercial waste, while food waste has the largest ecological footprint; accounting for 30 per cent of the total ecological footprint for industrial and commercial waste. The Food Manufacture, Service and Retail Sector plan proposes a reduction of waste of 1.2 per cent every year. It also focuses on those materials which have the biggest environmental impact or are the easiest to recycle; food, paper & card, plastic, glass, metal and wood. The aim is to recycle dry wastes such as glass, paper and card and plastics, and for food waste to be treated by anaerobic digestion.

The sector plans, together with Towards Zero Waste, the over-arching waste plan for Wales, provide clear directions for reaching 70 per cent recycling by 2025 and being zero waste by 2050. They build on the strong foundation set by Wales’ first waste plan Wise About Waste, and they are based on evidence.

This evidence-based decision making is key to our success. It is why we advocate kerbside sort recycling as the most sustainable and cost-effective way of collecting recycling; it is why we believe that it is best to collect food waste and recycling every week and residual (or ‘black bag’) waste fortnightly. Above all, it is why we recognise that recycling – even at high levels – is not enough if we do not reduce the overall amount of waste we produce.

In one of just three countries worldwide with a statutory duty to sustainability, the way in which we deal with our waste speaks volumes. I am proud of our advances in sustainable waste management, proud of the fact that our decisions are based on what delivers the best outcome for Wales. Above all, I am proud that Wales is now leading the way as an example of sustainable waste management in practice.