Plastic bag floating in the ocean with seaweed

Wales announces 2021 single-use plastics ban

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Welsh Government has said it will ban single use plastics from next year as part of plans to move the country towards a circular economy.

The Government said the ban would include a wide array of commonly available plastic items including straws, stirrers, cotton buds and cutlery.

It plans to launch a consultation on the proposals in the coming months with restrictions due to come into force in the first half of 2021.

Plastic pollution is rife in Wales, and has a particularly deleterious effect on its beaches and coasts which can cause harm to marine life.

In a 2019 Welsh Government study, a large proportion of litter collected was made up of plastic items.

The Government said the aim of these new measures is to “prevent litter from occurring in the first place, keeping valuable resources in the system and minimising the amount of waste transported to landfill sites”.

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn said: “The single use plastics we want to ban are hard to recycle and often found on the beaches and seas around our coast, blighting our beautiful country and harming our natural and marine environments.

“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’.

She added that she want to ensure that citizens “who may be reliant” on some plastic items are not negatively affected by the proposals.

The UK Government has already promised to scrap all “avoidable” plastic waste by 2042 which includes broader proposals than the Welsh Government has announced today.

While single-use plastics have understandably been given a bad reputation in recent years, the Covid-19 outbreak has seen their resurgence in the US due to fears that reusable bags and straws could transmit the virus.

Governors in Massachusetts and Illinois have banned or strongly discouraged the use of reusable grocery bags.

Oregon suspended its brand-new ban on plastic bags this week, and cities from Bellingham, Washington, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, have announced a hiatus on plastic bag bans as coronavirus rages.

The plastics industry has seized the moment and is lobbying hard to overturn bans on single-use plastics by arguing disposable plastics are the safest option amid the crisis.

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont have state-wide bans on plastic bags, and Oregon and California have laws limiting the use of plastic straws.

New York’s state-wide plastic bag ban is on hold because of a lawsuit.

The Plastics Industry Association recently sent a letter to Alex Azar, head of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and asked him to speak out against plastic bag bans because they put consumers and workers at risk.

Critics argue people with reusable bags do not regularly wash them.

“If those bags coming into the store are contaminated with anything, they get put on the conveyor belt, the counter, and you’re putting yourself in a bad spot,” said Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance.

“It’s an unnecessary risk.”

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