Wales unveils ambition to become world’s first ‘refill nation’

Cardiff Bay. Wales is developing a new behaviour change initiative in a bid to make residents “see the value of tap water” and choose it over bottled drinks

The Welsh Government will work with City to Sea – a group campaigning against single-use plastics – on developing a refill campaign for Wales, and will collaborate with water companies, businesses and charities to achieve this aim.

As its Government considers its involvement in the proposed UK-wide deposit return scheme (DRS), announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove in March, Wales is also developing a new behaviour change initiative in a bid to make residents “see the value of tap water” and choose it over bottled drinks.

Welsh Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn also announced an additional £15m funding to further improve local authority recycling collection systems and infrastructure, while additionally confirming the Welsh Government has signed up to WRAP’s new Plastics Pact – a commitment by businesses to make unnecessary single-use plastic packaging “a thing of the past”.

She said: “Wales is a world leader in recycling. We are the best in the UK, second in Europe and third in the world. I am keen to build on this success.”

What could a DRS mean for Wales?

Blythyn’s announcement coincided with the publication of Wales’ annual report on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which focused on reducing and recycling waste and reducing litter from various types of food and drink packaging. 

The report found that a DRS could drive up Welsh recycling rates of beverage containers to at least 90% (currently estimated to be between 65-77% dependent on materials) and reduce littering of beverage containers by approximately 90%.

At present just 43% of the 13bn plastic bottles sold each year in the UK are recycled, and 700,000 are littered every day. In Germany, a DRS was introduced in 2003 and 99% of plastic bottles are recycled.

The EPR report suggests that the Welsh Government could bring about a DRS either by requiring a 90% recycling rate for beverage containers under its existing powers relating to packaging waste, or by introducing a tax on all beverage containers placed on the market in Wales.

Alternatively, the report notes, it could act alone or work together with other UK countries to legislate for a DRS – with a UK-wide legislation being the preferred option.

Blythyn, who is set to meet her English and Scottish counterparts to discuss the DRS next week, told the Senedd: “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.”

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie