Push to reduce single-use plastics in Wales as 'lockdown easing sees increased littering'

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation on its proposals to ban a range of single-use plastics. Credit: PA Images

Welsh Government plans to ban a range of single-use plastics have taken another step forward.

It proposes the ban of nine "commonly littered" different single-use plastics, including straws, cutlery, cotton buds and drink stirrers.

The consultation launched on Thursday comes amid an increase in littering as lockdown restrictions ease, the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government said.

The aim is for Wales to lead the global drive against plastic pollution, but opposition parties have accused the Welsh Government of "dithering".

Cotton buds are one of the items included in the bill that could be banned. Credit: PA Images

Plastic items and pieces were among the most commonly found items on beaches in Wales during a national beach clean last year.

An average of 32 cigarette stubs, which contain plastic, and 20 food packets were found for every 100 metres of beach cleaned and surveyed.

Marine conservationists have welcomed the "long-awaited" consultation, but said the list of single-use plastics set to be banned should be unlimited.

Gill Bell, Head of Conservation Wales at the Marine Conservation Society, said: "Companies have been producing single-use plastic for years and it has become a blight on our beaches.

"This consultation gives the public an opportunity to send a clear signal to policymakers that enough is enough, and these issues must be addressed.

"The Welsh Government must be ambitious and go beyond a limited list of single-use items to ban and look to companies to pay for the cost of cleaning up their products found on beaches, as will become the norm in Europe."

The nine single-use plastics that could be banned in Wales:

  • Plastic-stemmed cotton buds

  • Cutlery

  • Plates

  • Beverage stirrers

  • Straws

  • Sticks for balloons

  • Food containers made of expanded polystyrene

  • Cups for beverages made of expanded polystyrene

Disposable face masks and other PPE items are being littered across the West Country. Credit: PA Images

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked concerns about the impact of single-use plastic PPE items, such as disposable face masks.

A professor warned that if everyone in the UK was to wear a single-use plastic mask every day for a year, it would create 128,000 tonnes of unrecyclable plastic.

The Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs said: "Finally, the Welsh Labour-led Government has stopped dithering and is getting on with banning single use plastics, something which the Welsh Conservatives have been calling for and willing to do for years.

“But once again Wales is behind Scotland and England in bringing these important changes in."

Janet Finch-Saunders MS said the Welsh Government should also introduce a bottle deposit return scheme.

It would see small price added to the cost of plastic PET bottles and aluminium drinks cans.