Wales to ban single-use plastics from next year

Plastic straws, cotton buds and polystyrene takeaway boxes will be banned next year as the Welsh Government aims to tackle plastic pollution and introduce a circular economy. 

The restrictions are due to come into force in the first half of 2021 | Image: Pixabay

The Welsh Government has announced that many single-use plastics will be banned across the country in 2021 as it lays out plans for Wales to address plastic pollution and move towards a circular economy.

The measures will restrict single-use, hard to recycle and commonly littered plastics which are contributing to excess litter in Welsh communities and having a negative environmental impact. 

Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn, made the announcement during Global Recycling Day. Wales is aiming to become the World’s top recycling nation.

“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,” said the Deputy Minister.  

“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’.”

Wales was first in the UK to introduce a plastic bag charge, now it will ban some altogether | Image: Pixabay

Every environment in Wales is impacted by plastic pollution with marine life particularly affected. Often litter ends up in rivers where it is transported out to sea. 

In Cardiff, the volunteers who make up Cardiff Rivers Group have been clearing the waterways of this litter for more than 10 years. 

“Cardiff Rivers Group welcomes the Welsh Government’s proposal to ban single-use plastics,” said the group’s Vice Chairman, Jon Wallis.

“Storm Dennis really highlighted the amount of waste that ends up in our waterways, with the banks of the Taff, Ely and Rhymney now festooned in litter and other rubbish, which will take months and probably years to remove.”

Litter is consumed by animals such as birds which can cause them harm | Image: Louie Fletcher

Welsh Government now wants to stop litter from occurring in the first place, keeping valuable resources in the system and minimising the amount of waste travelling to landfill. 

Banned items will include:

  • Straws
  • Stirrers
  • Expanded polystyrene food and drinks containers
  • Cotton buds
  • Certain types of carrier bags 
  • Balloon sticks

This ban is part of a three-pronged strategy which also includes becoming a circular economy and to embed recycling in the culture of 21st Century Wales. 

Welsh Government’s plans can be found in their Beyond Recycling documents | Source: Welsh Government

Wales has the best recycling rate of the UK nations and was the only one to exceed the EU’s 2020 target of recycling at least half of all household waste.  

The overall aim is for there to be zero waste in Wales by 2050 with 100% recycling. Currently the recycling rate sits at about 63%.