Issues and Challenges for Councils
As finite resources dwindle, Wales, as a nation, needs to become better at managing our resources. This includes what we traditionally thought of as ‘waste’. In this way we can conserve resources, support the economy and provide sustainable jobs for future generations.
The development of a Circular Economy is critical to this. This is where resources continue to be used multiple times rather than once and then thrown away. This is a potential growth area for jobs in Wales.
Local authorities have statutory responsibilities for collection and disposal of household waste. The key policy in this area is set out in Beyond recycling | GOV.WALES which charts a path to zero waste by 2050. Welsh Government have also set out Statutory Recycling Targets that councils must meet or risk substantial fines.
By 2024/25, 70% of municipal waste needs to be recycled and it is vital that this residual waste reduces steadily over time. Failure to meet this target can result in fines from Welsh Government. This can be achieved by reduced and recyclable product packaging. That is why many councils are limiting the amount of ‘black bag’ waste households can dispose of. Research has shown that when the last compositional analysis was done (looking at what people put in their black bags/wheelie bins) at least half of what people put out could be recycled using their current service.
In this term UK wide initiatives such as Extended Producer Responsibility (where the packaging producers pay for the costs of dealing with this material) and Deposit Return Schemes are likely to be implemented.
Welsh councils have made good progress reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste (items like food, garden, waste paper and cardboard) to landfill and increasing recycling. Many have successfully worked in consortia to procure treatment facilities for food and residual waste. Annual reuse/recycling and composting rates for each council can be found here.
There is a balance to be struck between the focus on recycling targets and promoting more sustainable behaviour across communities. Councils will each have their own waste policies to achieve this.