A key step in reducing the flow of plastic waste damaging wildlife and the environment in Wales was made yesterday as a Bill banning single-use plastics was laid before the Senedd.
Most plastic is made from fossil fuels. Reducing it can assist our efforts towards net zero, helping reduce our carbon footprint to minimise the worst impacts of the climate emergency.
In 2011, Wales was one of the first countries in the world to introduce a charge for single-use carrier bags, and it is currently ranked as the world’s third best domestic recycler.
Now, the Welsh Government is aiming to be at the forefront of action on plastic with Wales set to become the first part of the UK to legislate against such a comprehensive list of single-use plastics.
The 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.
It provides local authorities with powers to enforce the offence, and includes:
- drinking straws – this product has an exemption for health needs
- plastic stemmed cotton buds
- balloon sticks
- expanded and foamed extruded polystyrene fast-food containers
- expanded and foamed extruded polystyrene cups
- polystyrene lids for all cups and fast-food containers
- thin plastic single-use carrier bags
- all products made of oxo-degradable plastic
The decision to include these products follows a consultation in 2020, with all having non-plastic or reusable alternatives.
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 Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, 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.
Speaking of the Bill’s expected introduction to tackle the problem, Deputy Chief Executive of Keep Wales Tidy, Louise Tambini said:
Keep Wales Tidy welcomes legislation to ban single-use plastics. It is a positive step on our journey towards truly transforming the way we consume plastics and reduce waste as a nation.
Crucially, it paves the way for industry to move away from polluting practices which are damaging our environment and harming our wildlife.
We hope that the powers granted in the Bill will allow Wales to respond to emerging threats of other single-use products as consumer trends continue to evolve.