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The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales Bill)

The Welsh Government have unveiled their long-awaited legislation to ban single-use plastics in Wales. 

The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Bill will make it an offence to supply or offer to supply disposable single-use plastic products to consumers in Wales. This will provide local authorities with powers to enforce the offence, and includes:

·       cutlery

·       plates

·       stirrers

·       drinking straws – this product has an exemption for health needs

·       plastic stemmed cotton buds

·       balloon sticks

·       expanded and foamed extruded polystyrene fast-food containers

·       expanded and foamed extruded polystyrene cups

·       polystyrene lids for all cups and fast-food containers

·       thin plastic single-use carrier bags

·       all products made of oxo-degradable plastic

The list follows a consultation in 2020 and the Welsh government argues there are non-plastic or reusable alternatives to all of the products.

If the legislation passes unamended, it will mean that Wales will have the most comprehensive regulations to restrict the supply of single-use plastics in the UK.

The proposed law will also give the Minister the ability to add or remove items, providing the change is supported by the Senedd. For example, in June Julie James MS (Minister for Climate Change) wrote to the Senedd’s Environment Committee to say she was considering adding plastic wet wipes to the ban following the Welsh Government’s consultation exercise.


UK Internal Market Act

This legislation has been somewhat delayed due to complications from the UK Internal Market Act (2020). The Act had created uncertainty about the Welsh Government’s ability to introduce legislation for the bans and consequently delayed the Welsh Government’s plans to progress work in this area.

Schedule 1 of the UK Internal Market Act provides for the ‘mutual recognition and non-discrimination principles’ of the Act. Essentially, this means that each UK nation must recognise goods from other UK nations regardless of their own laws. This is, unless, specifically exempted.

The UK Government has the power (via the UKIMA) to implement a Statutory Instrument exempting a product from the Act. The exclusion was requested by the Scottish Government to support their regulations to ban a number of single use plastic items, and after agreement was implemented by the UK Government this year.

Following the implementation of this Statutory Instrument, any UK devolved Government is now able to restrict the supply of single-use straws, stemmed cotton buds, drink stirrers, plates, cutlery, balloon sticks and food & drinks containers.

Single-Use Plastic Bans Across the UK

The Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton Buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force in England in July 2021 but only restrict the supply (not manufacture) of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers.

The regulations do not include the restrictions on single-use plastic plates, cutlery, balloon sticks or expanded polystyrene food and drink containers contained within the Welsh Government’s draft Bill. However, a further consultation has taken place (awaiting outcome) on plans to ban the supply of these items.

The Scottish Government introduced the Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021,which ban both the manufacture and supply of certain items.

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