Launching the Welsh assembly government's National Waste Strategy for Wales - Wise About Waste - Ms Essex said: 'Wise About Waste will build on the success of work already done by some local authorities and by the voluntary and community sector to encourage communities in Wales to recycle and compost more materials currently being wasted.
'To help meet this minimum municipal waste recycling and composting target, the assembly government is providing an additional£79m from 2001-02 and 2004-05. New Opportunities funding of£3.25m is also being made available in Wales to specifically support community recycling and composting initiatives.'
At the moment, Wales sends 93 per cent of municipal waste to be disposed of in landfill sites.
Ms Essex said: 'Our strategy sets challenging targets and actions to move Wales from this over-reliance on landfill to a position where we will be a model for best practice in waste management.
'This will be achieved not only by recycling and composting but also by minimising the production of waste and its impact on the environment, and - where practicable - the use of energy from waste and landfill.'
The strategy also sets challenging, but voluntary, targets for businesses to reduce the amount of waste they produce and send to landfill.
The minister added: 'The strategy strongly urges - and identifies support for - businesses in Wales to grasp opportunities to become more competitive through reducing waste, and to manufacture products that generate less waste and are friendlier to the environment.
'The assembly government firmly believes that businesses that adopt environmentally-friendly practices are the ones that will survive and grow in the longer term. There are also great opportunities for new businesses to emerge, for example, based on the creation of products from recycled materials.
'Turning round the way in which waste is managed in Wales will not be easy but the potential benefits for the people of Wales are huge, both in a better environment and in social and economic opportunities. The Welsh assembly government is leading the process but success depends on a wide partnership across the public, voluntary and private sectors in Wales.'
In the preparation of Wise About Waste, the Welsh assembly government has worked closely with its partners and stakeholders in the Wales Waste Forum. It issued a public consultation paper 'Managing Waste Sustainably' last summer. This identified a range of options including, where appropriate, the Welsh Assembly Government's preferred options. These gained extensive support in the consultation and are now reflected in the final strategy.
The assembly government has recently funded a major survey of public attitudes to waste and recycling in Wales. This survey, managed by the Environment Agency, has provided information at a level that will help each local authority to develop its own municipal waste strategy. One of the most encouraging findings is that most people in Wales are happy to separate out the recyclable and compostable components of household rubbish provided the facilities to collect the materials are made widely available. The survey demonstrates that people in Wales are prepared to accept their responsibilities for recycling, and the assembly government has provided local authorities in Wales with the means to let them do so.
The strategy promotes a number of actions to improve the management of waste in Wales. These include measures to increase the use of recycled and composted materials by businesses and the public sector in Wales, a public sector waste minimisation campaign, an education campaign to raise awareness and understanding across Wales of the need to manage waste in a more environmentally friendly manner. It also includes moves to establish a Centre of Excellence in Waste Research amongst further and higher education institutions in Wales.
The 40 per cent target for recycling and composting municipal waste in Wales is not a 'ceiling', but a minimum level that every local authority should achieve. The assembly government wishes to see recycling and composting rates increase significantly above 40 per cent after 2010 where this is practicable.