This follows a meeting of the assembly's environment, planning and transport committee at which Ms Essex said: 'I fully support the principle of the landfill tax, and the signal from the United Kingdom government that the tax will increase.
'Economic instruments like the landfill tax have a valuable role to play in improving our environment. We could use the proceeds from the tax in a more focussed way to support local authorities and voluntary organisations in more environmental friendly waste management programme.
'The landfill tax credit scheme has been helpful and consideration is being given to widening the scope of the scheme, but the vast majority of the proceeds of this environmental tax do not help to address the critical environmental problems we are facing in Wales.
Sue Essex is writing to leaders of local authorities emphasising the importance she attaches to improving waste management and significantly increasing recycling, and of the need to prepare a waste strategy for Wales, in partnership with local authorities and others.
The landfill tax was introduced in October 1996 and is at present levied at£2 per tonne for inactive waste and£11 per tonne for active waste. The chancellor of the exchequer has announced that the rate for active waste will increase by£1 per tonne each year, with a review in 2004.
Under the landfill tax credit scheme landfill operators can claim up to 90 per cent tax credit against donations they make to approved environmental bodies, up to a maximum of 20 per cent of an operator's annual landfill tax bill.
The government has announced that it plans to extend the range of activity eligible for support to include recycling and reuse projects carried out by non-profit making, non-public bodies, after consulting interested parties on the exact scope of the provisions.
Under the European Union Landfill Directive it will be necessary to make substantial changes to the way we dispose of waste in Wales.
By the year 2020 we will need to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill to 35 per cent of the level in 1995. As we now landfill approximately 95 per cent of such waste, and the waste is growing each year, this will require a very substantial change in approach to waste management in Wales. There are intermediate targets which must also be met before 2010.