Wales Plan to Ban Single-Use Plastics from 2021

The Welsh Government have revealed plans to ban single use plastics such as plastic straws, cotton buds and plastic cutlery. The legislation, which is still required to pass through government, aims to outlaw these single-use plastics from 2021. This would result in single-use plastic products being taken off store shelves. 

Single-use plastic waste awareness has increased over the last 4 years, with the United Nations declaring a ‘war’ on single-use plastics. Environmental groups such as ‘Friends of the Earth’ and ‘Greenpeace’ have increased campaigns to showcase the global plastic problem. 

Hannah Blythyn, Minister for Environment in Welsh Government said that:

“The single-use plastics we want to ban are hard to recycle and often found on beaches and seas around our coast, blighting our beautiful country and harming our nature and marine environments.”

The Welsh plans are derived from existing EU directives, which contain a longer list of single-use plastics aiming to be banned. The Welsh Government aims to use this directive as a focus for improving the plans and increasing the types of plastics banned.

Haf Elgar, Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru said:

“This is just one step and we do need to urgently move to being a zero waste nation”

Blythyn added that “it is vital we don’t throw away our future – which is why we believe taking this direct action will have a significant impact on changing people’s behaviour and make them think about their waste ‘on-the-go’.”

Plastics under prospective banning include:

  • Plastic straws
  • Plastic cotton buds
  • Plastic stirrers
  • Plastic plates and cutlery
  • Balloon sticks
  • Expanded polystyrene food and drinks containers
  • Oxo-degradable plastics e.g. some carrier bags

However, former Welsh Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson argued that the ban could cause problems for disabled individuals who rely on them to drink independently.

Hannah Blythyn addressed this, explaining that consultation is essential for this process

“to understand the impact of this proposal, especially on any citizens who may be reliant on some of the items we have included, to make sure we get it right”

Jemme Bere, Policy and Research manager at charity Keep Wales Tidy, said that the impact this ban will have on businesses and consumer choice will be “very small because so many alternatives to these products exist.”

For example, since the awareness of plastic pollution arose, large companies such as McDonalds have made the switch to paper straws in their restaurants. She said that the plastic ban “essentially sends a message to the public to urge them to look into the alternatives,” but banning these items alone  is not enough to tackle the wider litter and pollution problem.

Medical and scientific laboratories are the only exception to this ban, and will still be able to buy plastic cotton buds. 

The Welsh Government have emphasised that the ban legislation has not been passed, and there would soon be public consultation to aid in underlining how the ban would work in practice.