Welsh waste plans should be recycled, not binned

30th April 2013 Posted by

 The Welsh Government has opened a consultation on proposed changes to its national planning policy for the management of waste. The three Welsh Regional Waste Plans have been around for less than 10 years, with the latest revisions dating from as recently as 2008, and serious infrastructure is already being tendered against these Plans. In view of this, the claim that they “are now outdated and should be revoked” will be greeted with dismay by most service providers and investors in waste management infrastructure. Waste policies and their accompanying Plans will always need to evolve (hence the three year review window in Wales), but how could the Plans have become so outdated since the last major review, to support the case for wholesale revocation?

Matters become more perplexing when the content of the current Plans and their methodology are compared against some of the reasons given for revocation. For example, it is claimed that the proposals are “updating policy direction to enable waste facilities to move up the waste hierarchy”. But the waste hierarchy, as formalised in the Waste Directive 2008/98/EC – Reduce, Re-use, Recover materials, Recover energy, Dispose in that order, already forms the basis of the current Plans. The environmental and economic assessment of technical options used has established lifecycle tools that are again, required by the Waste, Directive 2008/98/EC. The proposed change from a capacity metric of land-take to one based on tonnage, is more one of translation rather than a change that requires the entire process to start again from scratch. Other proposed changes – data collection, monitoring, annual reports – are administrative and could have been introduced with a lighter touch.

What the sector wants is a settled policy landscape over a substantial portion of a waste facility’s operating life, so that the investment put into that facility has a fighting chance of being recouped. Summarily scrapping the current Plans will not best serve the waste management cause in Wales.

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