Wales unveils plans to ban single-use plastics from 2021

The Welsh Government's approach to plastics has been to go "beyond recycling"

In an announcement made late yesterday (18 March), the Welsh Government confirmed plans to consult around the phase-out of plastics deemed to be “single-use, hard-to-recycle and commonly littered”.

Materiality assessments conducted by Welsh Government departments found that these items include straws, stirrers, cotton buds, cutlery, plates and balloon sticks. Food and drink packaging made from expanded polystyrene is also on the list, given that it is non-recyclable, as are controversial oxo-degradable plastics.

Consultations around how Government should work with businesses and other organisations to phase-out each of these items will open in the coming months, the Welsh Government said in a statement.

According to the statement, the first complete bans are likely to come into effect in early 2021- in line with the UK Government’s ban on selling or distributing plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England, due to begin in April 2021.

The statement also re-iterates Ministers’ desires not to have the phase-out result in unintended negative financial consequences – particularly for small businesses.

Moreover, it acknowledges that some citizens, including those with disabilities, are “reliant on some of the items” listed for a potential ban. As such, the phase-out is likely to come with some exemptions.

Wales’ Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn, said the new plans build on the nation’s upcoming circular economy strategy ‘Beyond Recycling’ – a policy package headlined with a 2050 ambition of sending zero waste to landfill.

“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 when on-the-go,” Blythyn said.

Research by Hubbub last year identified gaps between recycling and reuse behaviour at home and ‘on-the-go’, largely due to a lack of infrastructure and accompanying communications.

Meanwhile, in Scotland…

Another big plastics policy announcement this week comes from the Scottish Government, which, in light of the coronavirus outbreak, has postponed the introduction of a national Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) until 2022.

Ministers last year confirmed that a 20p deposit fee for all PET and glass bottles as well as aluminium and steel cans would be brought into effect, following extensive consultations.

In May 2019, it was revealed that the DRS will be similar to scope in format to that operated in Germany, where the recycling rate for PET bottles now stands at around 99%. Once introduced, it will cover all beverage products between 50ml and 300ml, except HDPE-made plastic bottles, typically used for milk.

In the months that followed, introduction dates of early 2021 and late 2020 were floated. But this week, Ministers set a final introduction date of early 2022 – to the disappointment of many green groups.

The Scottish Green Party said that although the Covid 19 pandemic is “an unprecedented unforeseen circumstance”, a DRS should still be brought in by the end of 2021 at the latest.

“This latest delay means the scheme will come into force a whole five years after it was announced,” Scottish Green environment spokesperson Mark Ruskell said.

“Clearly, there have been numerous attempts by industry to derail the DRS over the last 18 months, with a long list of excuses from corporate vested interests for postponing or weakening the scheme.”

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie