The Welsh Government is to consult this year on requirements for businesses to segregate plastic, metal, glass and paper waste for recycling.
The measure was first mooted in the Welsh Government’s Environment (Wales) Act, which was passed into law in 2016. However, until now no steps have been taken to enforce the requirements.
This month, Wales’ deputy minister for housing and local government, Hannah Blythyn, has revealed that work is underway to make waste segregation a legal requirement for businesses.
In a statement on the Welsh Government’s efforts to tackle plastic waste, Ms Blythyn – the Labour Assembly Member for Delyn – described recycling as ‘vital’, and pointed to the growth in the volume of municipal recycling in Wales, where more than 60% of material is recorded as recycled.
In the statement, she added: “Later this year, we will be consulting on our proposals to go further.
“For business waste, we will implement the provisions in the Environment (Wales) Act to require the separate collection of materials for recycling, to ensure materials that can be recycled are not wasted.”
Waste (England and Wales) Regulations
At present, the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011, place a duty on those collecting and transporting waste – essentially local authorities and waste management companies – to ensure that the four materials are collected separately.
Separate collections are a requirement where it is necessary to encourage high quality recycling of the material. However, this can be avoided where it is possible to demonstrate that separate collections are not technically, environmentally or economically practicable (TEEP).
The Welsh Government’s proposals will extend the legal requirement to businesses producing waste to ensure that they separate their recyclable wastes for collection, with a potential risk of fines for businesses who fail to meet these obligations.
This would mirror similar legislation in Scotland, where the Waste (Scotland) Regulations have, since January 2014, required all businesses, public sector and not-for-profit organisations to present metal, plastic, glass and paper/card for separate collection.
Commenting on the proposals, Jakob Rindegren, co-ordinator of the Welsh Environmental Services Association (WESA), welcomed the impending consultation on the proposals, but cautioned that adequate enforcement would be needed to ensure that the requirements are successfully implemented.
“Critical for us is how it will be enforced, and we would also favour awaiting the outcome of the Resources and Waste Strategy to align with England as much as possible..”
He said: “Critical for us is how it will be enforced, and we would also favour awaiting the outcome of the Resources and Waste Strategy to align with England as much as possible.
“Clearly, requiring businesses to segregate their waste will be important in achieving higher recycling targets.”
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Wales also welcomed the focus on improving recycling, but expressed some concern at the day-to-day impact of the requirements.
Josh Miles, FSB Wales Policy Manager, said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s ambition to improve recycling rates, however it is important to note that many smaller firms will use commercial waste companies instead of local authority services.
“We look forward to working with Welsh Government on overcoming the practical barriers faced by SMEs when separating their waste, such as when space is at a premium.”