Wales is set to lead the charge in the battle against plastic waste, as the Welsh Government forges ahead with new laws prohibiting the supply of certain disposable plastic items.
The move puts Wales in the vanguard of action to limit plastic waste, becoming the first part of the UK to legislate against a long list of single-use plastic items. Wales was also the first part of the UK to require retailers to charge for single-use carrier bags, back in 2011.
The new Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Bill will make it an offence to supply or offer to supply littered and unnecessary disposable single-use plastic products to consumers in Wales.
The bill now begins the required scrutiny process before it can become law. If passed, it will give local authorities the power to enforce the ban on single-use plastic items including:
- drinking straws – this product has an exemption for health needs
- thin plastic single-use carrier bags
- plastic-stemmed cotton buds
- expanded and foamed extruded polystyrene fast-food containers
- expanded and foamed extruded polystyrene cups
- polystyrene lids for all cups and fast-food containers
- balloon sticks
- all products made of oxo-degradable plastic
The Welsh Government’s decision to include all these products follows a consultation in 2020, with all the items on the list having non-plastic or reusable alternatives.
Exemptions to this list only include certain items sold by pharmacists for medical or care reasons.
Any other business that supplies any of the products listed could be fined, with Welsh councils having the power to raid premises to stop manufacture or supply.
Importantly, the Bill will also give Ministers the power, with the support of the Senedd, to add or remove products, placing Wales in the driving seat for future action.
The Welsh Government says that it will continue to work with industry, businesses, third sector bodies, academia, and others to help develop future policies. It has also said that it has plans to increase the list of banned plastic products, with certain items – like plastic wet wipes – to also be included in future.
Julie James, Minister for Climate Change, said:
“This is a big moment in our journey towards a plastic-free Wales. Single-use plastic products are often seen littered in our streets, parks and seas. Not only are they unsightly, but they have a devastating impact on our wildlife and environment.
“With a Team Wales effort, we have to say no to the single-use item culture, so we avoid leaving a toxic legacy of plastic for future generations to deal with. By thinking differently, making lifestyle changes and choosing re-usable products, we can save money and help fight the devastating impacts of climate change.
“The issue of plastic waste is a common problem across Wales, often ending up in places like Cardiff Bay, where Cardiff Harbour Authority and volunteers from organisations like Cardiff Rivers Group carry out regular clean-ups, collecting around 500 tonnes of litter each year, much of it plastic.”