The Power of Less – Policy on Waste in Wales

I had a most heartening morning at the well attended Policy on Waste in Wales forum today (which I as usual gatecrashed as I’m not about to pay £200 for the pleasure of having my own policies talked back to me). All those years of going to these things and asking the awkward questions seems to have paid off. This was evident in that a lot of people called me by name, and yes I did still ask awkward questions, but there were not so many of them as before. Policy makers are now thoroughly convinced of the necessity for a circular economy (or closed loop system). Of note was the humanising of waste systems – with an extra 4000 jobs in the pipeline and 30,000 jobs in the ultimate Welsh circular economy, the fact that politics is holding back investment and that waste regulation assumes that waste has no value -which of course is a ludicrous concept. On a planet with finite resources everything has a value. Importantly it became clear that waste – on any level – is a failure of imagination.

Re-manufacturing was a big subject, abolishing built in obsolescence and increasing producer responsibility in manufacture, particularly in packaging is finally acceptable.

To hear more than one speaker talking about getting us to a one planet economy by 2050 was music to my ears, so the intention is there even if the framework needs much to be desired. There was much dependence on the Well Being of Future Generations Act, to sort things out. I hope it does, but am not optimistic on this particular point.

Today, we definitely talked the talk. I hope that tomorrow we will walk the walk.

Finally a word on gender balance. It was stunningly even. This is the first time I have been to a Policy seminar which was not criminally overwhelmed by men in suits. I have to wonder if this is a true sign of changing times, or whether the subject matter of waste and all the implications arising from abolishing it, has touched the imagination of the female of the species, and spurred them to take part for the common good. The panels weren’t quite gender balanced, but I get the feeling we are at last on the way to equal representation in all strata of society.

So congratulations to the organisers for bringing me a Green morning in every way.

Letter to the Planning Inspectorate regarding Rhiw Las One Planet Development

Dear Madam or Sir,

We would like to see the Planning Officer’s recommendation of approval for this project upheld in line with the laudable One Planet Development (OPD) planning policy, the criteria of which the Rhiw Las development certainly meets.

The trend for truly sustainable zero carbon dwellings must be encouraged if Wales is to meet its carbon reduction targets of 40% by 2020. Connecting to a low carbon lifestyle will not be an easy cultural shift, and we need trailblazers to show us the way through innovation, reinvention of old methodologies, and the training of those who will inevitably follow in their footsteps.

The Rhiw Las project will improve the environmental quality of the site as it transitions from low quality grazing to a rich and diverse mix of orchards and horticulture free from artificial pesticides and fertilizers. It will also provide a rare haven for our beleaguered pollinators.

If the Well Being of Future Generations Act is to be taken at all seriously, Wales must transform its agricultural outlook away from monoculture land use and toxic chemical interventions. We need to address the malady of normalisation of poor land husbandry and chemical spraying in favour of a more organic approach.

Fifty years ago we were organic by default, now it seems as though we are toxic by default, whilst to gain organic certification can take 4 years. Surely it should be the other way round, with the use of unnatural pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers needing to go through stringent legal hoops, and the organic methods returning to their rightful default criteria.

It is therefore most concerning that a true One Planet Development has been rejected, whilst vast housing estates of low building and environmental standards are encouraged.

We trust the Planning Inspectorate will share our concerns, and the inevitable concerns of generations to come, who will not thank us for discouraging this type of small development. We trust that the recommendations of the Carmarthenshire planning officers will be upheld.