Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
One of the main focusses of my Natural Resources Policy for Wales is increasing resource efficiency. We each have a stake in our natural resources. This is as true today as it was back in 2010 when the Welsh Government published its waste strategy Towards Zero Waste. Wales’ waste strategy has a strong focus on the sustainable management of natural resources. Towards Zero Waste set the Welsh Government’s long term strategic goals to reduce waste in Wales by 65% by 2050. The strategy also set the Local Authority recycling target for 70% by 2025 and this was made statutory under the Waste (Wales) Measure 2010. We are the only UK administration to do this.
Recycling in Wales is a huge success story. Wales, with its 64% recycling rate, is someway ahead of the other UK nations and within only a few percentage points of being best in the world. We are also making good progress capturing materials for recycling from our households for example, recent data compiled by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) indicates Wales’ recycling rate for plastic bottles from households is 75 %. This is compared with a 57% recycling rate for the rest of the UK. This tremendous achievement is thanks to the commitment of householders engaging with the comprehensive recycling collection services provided by our Welsh Local Authorities.
However, as a Government we accept more needs to be done to improve our recycling rate still further and tackle litter and the issues associated with a ‘throw away’ society and ‘disposable’ culture. I recognise marine litter, in particular, is a growing concern and I fully support the work of the Marine Litter Task and Finish group in developing a set of actions to address marine litter in Wales.
Our main aim is to prevent litter from entering the environment in the first place. To do this we continue to fund Local Authorities and Keep Wales Tidy to encourage communities and individuals to take pride in their local environment.
We need to value the resources we all too often take for granted, reduce what we use and wherever possible, keep materials and goods in use for longer. We must move away from the throw away culture we are all too familiar with and encourage behaviours which will help protect our environment.
To further this approach, I will be introducing additional measures to increase resource efficiency in Wales. I plan to do this as part of the development of a route map for a more resource efficient economy, building on our success in recycling and reducing the environmental impacts of production and consumption which aims to move Wales closer to an economy which fosters sustainable economic growth and creates jobs in Wales, as laid out in Prosperity for All.
As part of this process, I have commissioned a study to assess possible interventions to increase waste prevention, increase recycling and reduce land and marine based litter. Producer responsibility schemes such as the current schemes in place in the UK will be included in the research. Deposit Return Schemes will also be included. The research will also assess the likely environmental, economic and social impacts of potential extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, including any potential unintended consequences. It is crucial we ensure decisions made today do not impact negatively on future generations. It is also important we await the results of the study and not pre-empt the outcome and make commitments which are not in the best interests of the people of Wales.
Eunomia, an environment consultancy, has been awarded the contract following a competitive process. The study, which is now underway, will report early next year and I have requested the research includes strong stakeholder consultation. This engagement exercise will be considered, alongside the findings of the research, when we consult on our draft resource efficiency route map next summer.
Our tax raising powers are an important part of new policy development. The recently published Tax Policy Framework and Work Plan include a commitment to "consider the case for introducing new taxes in Wales, exploring the policy and administrative elements and the mechanism for change".
The devolution of tax powers provides a range of opportunities for the Welsh Government to develop a Welsh approach to taxation and presents an opportunity to build on Wales’ leading role in recycling and waste reduction. Packaging taxes in particular received public and stakeholder support during the debate on new taxes.
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government is due to publish a shortlist of possible new taxes on 3 October and will be confirming which one of these taxes to take to the UK Government early next year.
In the longer term, I want to ensure we are making the most of the policy levers and mechanisms we have at our disposal. I also want to ensure future policy decisions are based on sound and robust evidence and made in the best interests of our beautiful country, making Wales a better place for all.