Collections Blueprint is being independently reviewed

Collections Blueprint is being independently reviewed
Carl Sargeant, Wales’s Minister for Natural Resources, with the blueprint-supported Troliblocs system in Conwy

Wales’s Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant has today (11 March) confirmed the evidence base of Wales’s Collection Blueprint is being independently reviewed to ‘take account of new developments in equipment’, amongst other things. At the same time, he defended the approach identified in the blueprint as still being ‘the most sustainable option’.

The blueprint, which was launched in 2011, states that the Welsh Government’s recommended service profile for the collection of recycling from households is via kerbside sort (the separation of different material streams at the kerbside) as it ‘provides a system that, if adopted across the whole of Wales, would result in high rates of high quality recycling, significant cost savings and improved sustainable development outcomes’.

However, in December 2014, the National Assembly for Wales’s Environment and Sustainability Committee published its findings on the state of recycling in Wales and argued that the evidence base for this blueprint should be reviewed as it found that ‘no single method of collecting recyclable resources from householders offers a clear lead in performance, cost or efficiency’.

Further, the committee stated that there should be an ‘analysis of the latest data on reject rates and destination of recyclates from all collection methods’ by the end of March 2016 ‘so that it can inform the approach taken by local authorities’ to achieving the Welsh Government’s 2019/20 recycling target of 64 per cent.

Speaking at a debate on the Environment and Sustainability Committee's report on its inquiry into recycling in Wales in Senedd this afternoon, Sargeant revealed that an independent review was already underway to take into account “new developments in equipment, the results of pilots, changes in markets, and the need for new additional materials to be collected to meet the higher recycling targets”.

‘Universal adoption of the blueprint would provide the most sustainable option’

He said: “It is timely to refresh the blueprint that was first published in 2011, and we already plan to update the blueprint in 2015, taking account of new developments in equipment, the results of pilots, changes in markets, and the need for new additional materials to be collected to meet the higher recycling targets.

“Whilst I acknowledge the committee’s finding that there are some local authorities that do not share our belief that the universal adoption of the blueprint would provide the most sustainable option, I am of the opinion that there are many positive benefits for local authorities if the blueprint approach is adopted.”

He noted that urban authorities such as Anglesey, Conwy, Powys were able to adopt the blueprint approach as well as valley authorities such as Bridgend and Torfaen.

However, the minister added that while the review is underway, it is important that local authorities continue with their efforts to review services and make any necessary changes to achieve significant cost savings.

He said: “The widespread adoption of the blueprint provides the best overall economic, financial, social and environmental solution for Wales. It will lead to efficiency savings through procurements, to shared depot facilities and a more consistent approach for householders as well as a consistent way of presenting materials to market.

“I continue to call on local authorities to adopt the collections blueprint where a service review identifies that it is the best option – leading to a more consistent universal service across Wales.”

Communicating with householders at a local level 'more effective' than national campaigns

The committee welcomed the fact that the minister had accepted six of the seven recommendations made in their inquiry report, and that he had accepted the last ‘in principle’.

This last recommendation related to investing in a national campaign to help ‘drive higher rates of recycling including to promote understanding of the need to reduce the ecological footprint of waste and the importance of other measures, particularly waste reduction’. 

This was ‘accepted in principle’ as there is already a national campaign run by Waste Awareness Wales, which receives funding from the Welsh Government, but the minister suggested that communicating with householders at a local level could be more effective.

Whilst he also agreed that weight-based recycling targets could "detract from efforts to reduce waste" and stated that his department was “already planning to review policy and targets on waste as part of the normal cycle of producing and revising our waste strategy and waste prevention programme”, he noted that they are still relevant as EU waste Directive targets are all weight based.

Sargeant also reiterated his belief that there could be greater standardisation of recycling collections across Wales, perhaps by standardising the colour of receptacles for certain materials, or by standardising the types of receptacles, collection vehicles, and marketing materials used.

He added that he will also give “further consideration” to recycling rewards, how end destinations of recyclates are relayed to the public, and is commissioning the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to develop a brokerage system for local authority collected recyclate (such as that being developed in Scotland).

He concluded: “Thanks to the efforts of individuals and local authorities, Wales continues to lead the UK with its recycling targets, exceeding those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and would be ranked fourth in the EU if it were a separate member state. This is no mean feat, and whilst I accept there are challenges ahead, I am optimistic of achieving future targets.”

Read more about the National Assembly for Wales’s Environment and Sustainability Committee’s inquiry into recycling in Wales.

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