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New stats show Wales still third best IN THE WORLD for recycling despite pandemic

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Wales – currently ranked third in the world in recycling- upheld its stellar recycling rates last year despite the pandemic, new 2020-21 stats have revealed today.

Nationally the recycling rate was 65.4% with eighteen of 22 local authorities exceeding the statutory minimum target of 64%, and 13 reporting an increase in performance on the previous year. Exceptionally the next statutory minimum target of 70% by 2024-2025, was already achieved by Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Conwy and Vale of Glamorgan.

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What’s more, in the spirit of ‘reduce, reuse, then recycle’ – where reducing waste ranks the priority goal- the amount of rubbish ending up in landfill for 2020-21 dropped to less than 5%. This is good news for Welsh Government’s bold circular economy plans, which outlines an ambitious target to achieve zero waste in Wales by 2050.

A reduction in business operations during the pandemic, including the closure of hospitality and offices, is believed to be the driver behind the lower overall waste figures. An increase in household waste also reflects this, as more people spent time at home.

Why are these stats important? In order to tackle the climate and nature emergency, moving to a circular economy – where materials are kept in use and waste is avoided – is essential.  Our consumption and associated waste is a key contributor to the emissions heating our planet, the decline in biodiversity and is also detrimental to public health. A move to a circular economy will not only kick our single use habit and decrease our emissions, but it will build supply chain resilience as reused materials stay in Wales and substitute our reliance on raw materials from overseas.

The high rate of household recycling in Wales saves over 400,000 tonnes of CO2 per year from being released into the atmosphere and is a key contribution to tackling climate change.

Wales has long been a stand-out performer in the UK when it comes to recycling rates. The Welsh Government’s £1billion investment since devolution in household recycling has helped see its rates catapult from just 4.8% in 1998-1999, to over 65% in 2020-21. According to the latest global study from Eunomia (2017), Wales is ranked third in the world behind Germany and Taiwan on the global recycling leaderboard.

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “Our recycling stats are world class thanks to a Team Wales effort. They show what we can achieve when government, business and the third sector work together towards a common goal.

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“They also show that while investment and partnership working have been key ingredients of this success, ultimately this achievement has been down to people recycling at home in every part of Wales. Our move to a circular economy is good for helping our homegrown businesses flourish, while helping us decarbonise, reduce waste and support our recovery from the pandemic.

“As well as already having made a significant difference to our emissions, our excellent recycling track record is a fantastic platform for us to build on in tackling the climate and nature emergencies, so we can pass on a resilient, green and prosperous Wales to our future generations. ”

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Environment

Independent review of floods announced to help Wales adapt to climate change

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An independent review of flooding events across Wales during the winter of 2020-21 has been launched, the Welsh Government has announced.

Led by one of the UK’s leading barristers, the review will help ensure Wales learns from previous flooding events and embeds good practice for the future.

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The review, which is part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, will consider evidence from investigations carried out by local authorities and Natural Resources Wales, as well as other relevant reports.

Since Storm Dennis wreaked havoc across the country in February 2020, Wales has experienced a rapid increase in the frequency of storm and flood events than at any other time in recorded history.

Heavy rainfall and storms are likely to become more frequent as a result of climate change.

The Minister for Climate Change has appointed Professor Elwen Evans QC, one of the UK’s leading barristers, to lead the review.

Professor Evans will be tasked with establishing key findings, shared concerns, lessons learned, successes and good practice, as well as identifying areas for improvement.

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Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said: “The terrible flooding we have witnessed in Wales in recent years is a stark reminder of the challenges we face from climate change. These increasingly frequent, powerful weather events create widespread trauma, disruption and financial loss for families and businesses.

“We have put a thorough flood strategy in place and recently announced the largest ever package of investment to reduce flood risk across Wales, with more than £214m over the next three years to help protect at least 45,000 homes from flood risk.

“It is vital we learn from previous events to prepare us for the future, and I am delighted Professor Evans, who brings substantial experience and authority, has agreed to lead the independent review.”

Designated Member, Sian Gwenllian said: “We have seen the devastating impact flooding can have on our communities and businesses. Alongside taking action on climate change and ensuring Wales plays its part to tackle it, addressing flood prevention and learning from the devastating 2020-21 floods will make a difference to people’s safety and peace of mind across Wales.

“I have been working closely to develop the scope and approach to delivery of this important review as part of the Co-operation Agreement, and I look forward to the findings.”

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The announcement of the independent review follows the record £214m investment in flood risk as part of the Co-operation Agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, which will protect at least 45,000 homes.

This will support Flood Risk Management Authorities, accelerate the delivery of prevention schemes, and build resilience in the system as climate change intensifies.

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Environment

Cadle Heath is alive with the sound of critters

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From endangered bats to moths, beetles and unusual critters, a Swansea suburb is giving locals an opportunity to discover exactly what’s living on their doorstep.

The Cadle Heath BioBlitz event funded by the Swansea Nature Partnership on Saturday, May 14, is a day packed with scavenger hunts, guided walks, opportunities to learn about the wildflowers, bugs birds, reptiles and mammals and help to gather important nature data by recording the unusual species living in this urban heath.

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This nature reserve is one of Swansea’s best kept secrets and stretches from behind Swansea Community Farm on Carmarthen Road, to popular shopping-destination, Pontarddulais Road Retail Park.

The event, which is organised by Swansea Community Farm, South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre and Penderi Green Regeneration project, will take place between 10am and 3pm at the farm. Followed by a bat walk at 8.30pm, giving people the chance to listen for the elusive, red-listed, Lesser Horseshoe Bat in its natural habitat.

Kate McCabe from Pobl, leading on the Penderi Green Regeneration Project, said: “This is an exciting event for us. Cadle Heath is one of the best examples of urban heathland in the country and we are proud to have such a rich, exciting space for nature in the heart of Swansea’s Penderi region. The fact that the heath is home to a red-listed bat species is something we should be really proud of and something we should protect and celebrate.”

“Cadle is in such a highly populated part of Swansea that it is often overlooked, and people don’t often realise the hidden haven that exists for local wildlife. This family-friendly event will really bring the area to life, giving people a unique opportunity to really explore the area with the guidance of passionate scientists and nature experts.”

Katharine Aylett, from Swansea Community Farm, said: “We are proud to be hosting such an important and exciting event for the area, and to be partners of Pobl’s Penderi Green Regeneration Project. At Swansea Community Farm, we know the positive effect activities like this have on the community and local wildlife; it’s about raising awareness of the natural world and bringing people together, outdoors. 

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“The Penderi Green Regeneration Project itself, is vital to the area and is already having a clear impact on this part of Swansea. We’re looking forward to working with them on future events and initiatives.”

The Penderi Green Regeneration Project is an initiative to support local people in their desire to improve green spaces in their area which will help boost health and wellbeing. Through a series of physical and educational opportunities, the initiative will bring the wider neighbourhood together to regenerate green spaces in the Penderi area of Swansea.

Funded by UK Government, under the Community Renewal Fund (CRF), Pobl Group is able to deliver the Project with the help of key partners, Swansea Environment Centre, Room To Grow and the Conservation Team at Swansea Council.

For more information on the free event, visit: www.swanseacommunityfarm.org.uk

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First Minister celebrates 10 years of the Wales Coast Path

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The First Minister will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Wales Coast Path with a visit to meet volunteers and walkers.

A year long programme of events and activities celebrating the Wales Coast Path will take place throughout 2022, including walking festivals, virtual challenges and art installations.

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Since its opening in 2012, the Wales Coast Path has established itself as a beacon of our nation’s natural beauty.

The 870 mile path guides walkers along Wales’ picturesque coastline, weaving its way past a hundred beaches and sixteen castles.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The coastal path is one of the crowning glories of Wales and one of the proudest achievements of devolution.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the management of the path. Particularly the staff and volunteers, who are out in all weathers, working hard to maintain the path to such high standards.

“If I had to choose my favourite stretch of the path, the portion between Pendine and Amroth would be a candidate: starting in my own home county of Carmarthenshire, and ending in Pembrokeshire. It may not be the most well-known part of the path, but it offers huge variety: some challenging climbs, outstanding variety of flowers, secret coves and plenty of historical interest”.

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The Welsh Government will build on the successes of the first ten years so that more people are able to enjoy the path, from more backgrounds, more easily, and with more benefits for local communities, businesses and the environment.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, asked Huw Irranca-Davies, MS for Ogmore to undertake a review of the Wales Coast Path.

A small group, drawn from academia and the public, private and voluntary sectors was established to undertake the review.

The Group reflected on the key achievements over the last decade and identified how to maximise opportunities for the future.

Their report has been published on the Welsh Government website today (11 May).

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The review recognises the potential value and challenges of the Wales Coast Path. It contains 19 recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider when developing its future strategic approach to the path.

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