Wales to become first ‘Refill Nation’ amid drive to reduce plastic pollution
Wales is set to become the world’s first ‘Refill Nation’, improving access to drinking water in public places across the country, as well as allocating an additional £15 million of funding to aid Wales in its push to become the foremost recycling nation on the globe, Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn will announce today (8 May) before the Welsh Parliament.
The Refill movement, set up by Bristol campaign group City to Sea, seeks to tackle plastic pollution with a network of free-to-use water points which reduces the need for single-use plastic bottles. The Welsh Government will work with City to Sea to develop the Refill campaign in Wales, as well as working closely with water companies and more widely with businesses, charities and major events. The work will also include a behavioural change campaign to help people see the value of water and make tap water their first choice for hydration.
The Refill movement has been gaining ground recently against the backdrop of the 7.7 billion plastic drinking bottles thrown away in the UK every year, with Refill projects being set up in towns and cities such as Bristol, Bath, Banbury and even London, where a trial Refill scheme was launched in March.
Blythyn will also announce £15 million of capital funding to improve local authority recycling collection systems and infrastructure, in addition to the £7.5 million of funding announced in February for the 2017/18 financial year.
Wales remains the leading recycling nation in the UK; the ‘UK Statistics on Waste’ report, released in February, shows that Wales has extended its lead as the best municipal recycling nation in the UK, moving to 12 per cent above the UK average, while the Welsh Government has independently reported recycling figures of 64 per cent for 2016/17, placing it second in Europe and third in the world.
Not content with merely leading the way, Blythyn stated in March that the Welsh Government would be considering the feasibility of setting an 80 per cent municipal recycling target by 2035, some 15 per cent higher than the 65 per cent by 2035 target set by the EU’s Circular Economy Package.
Blythyn will today reveal the key findings from her department’s recent research on extended producer responsibility (EPR), which focused on reducing and recycling waste from six types of food and drink packaging. The Welsh Government will also be working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the other devolved administrations to consider HM Treasury’s proposed UK single-use plastics tax, amendments to the Producer Responsibility Obligations Packaging Waste Regulations and how a UK-based deposit return scheme (DRS) could function.
In addition, the Minister will reaffirm the Welsh Government’s commitment to working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics in Wales, with the government signing up to WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact and funding the development of a ‘Plastics Recycling Route Map’ for Wales, which will recommend action to increase the use of recycled materials in plastic manufactured in Wales.
“Wales is a world leader in recycling,” Blythyn’s speech to the Welsh Parliament will say. “We are the best in the UK, second in Europe and third in the world. I am keen to build on this success.
“I’m pleased to announce a range of measures to further boost recycling and reduce waste, including £15m for local authorities to improve their recycling rates across Wales. I also want Wales to become the World’s first ‘Refill Nation’, making tap water easily accessible across the whole of Wales.
“I am currently considering Wales’ involvement in a UK-wide deposit return scheme. Developing approaches on a UK-wide basis can be less complicated for consumers and better for businesses who have told us they prefer this approach, particularly as we prepare for Brexit. I am also considering making changes to regulations so that producers and retailers pay a larger share of waste management costs.
“We continue to work with HM Treasury on a UK single-use plastics tax. At the same time we will continue to consider a tax, levy or charge on single-use beverage cups for Wales. The mandatory use of reusable cups and a potential pilot is also something I am considering.
“We were the first in the UK to bring in a plastic carrier bag charge. We can lead the way once again and make Wales the first in the world when it comes to recycling.”