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Ban on single-use plastics in Wales takes effect from October 30th

The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Act 2023 will introduce Phase 1 of the ban which will mean that businesses are no longer able to sell or supply certain items to the end user.

There is a lot of rubbish found on beaches in Wales that is made of plastic products, which includes:

  • Single-use plastic plates (including paper plates coated in plastic)Plastic on beach
  • Single-use plastic cutlery (e.g. knives, forks, spoons, sporks and chopsticks)
  • Single-use plastic drinks stirrers
  • Single-use plastic drinking straws
  • Cups made of expanded or foamed extruded polystyrene
  • Takeaway food containers made of expanded or foamed extruded polystyrene
  • Single-use plastic balloon sticks
  • Single-use plastic-stemmed cotton buds

Impact of the Act and exemptions

The ban will affect retailers, food vendors, takeaways and the hospitality industry and will apply to supplies both over the counter and online. There are however a number of exemptions, for example that permitting pharmacies to continue to provide plastic straws in cases where individuals need them to eat and drink safely and independently.

Other exemptions will see plastic stemmed cotton buds still being used in healthcare settings and plastic spoons permitted with the supply of liquid medicines in order to measure dosage.

Reason for the change in the law

Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down and causes damage to our oceans, rivers, and on land. Plastic pollution is also a source of greenhouse gas emission, both as result of its manufacture and the manner of its disposal.

When consulting on the ban in 2020, Welsh Government quantified the scale of the single-use plastics problem at the time by identifying that annually in Wales some 226 million units of plastic cutlery were sold, along with 173 million plastic straws, 5.7 million plastic stirrers, 26 million polystyrene cups, 30 million plastic bud sticks and 1 million plastic balloon sticks. 

Advice for business

Shared Regulatory Services has been advising businesses to run down existing stock of single-use plastic goods ahead of the 30th October deadline and to identify alternatives to plastic when sourcing these items in future.

Alternatives to single-use plastics

Steps could includSingle use plastics guidee:

  • Replacing plastic with bamboo or wooden cutlery for takeaway food
  • Swapping plastic for metal cutlery for in-house guests
  • Swapping single use plastic plates for re-usable alternatives that can be washed
  • Offering paper plates instead of plastic
  • Offering to refill customers’ water bottles or travel cups
  • Encouraging customers to bring their own clean containers for takeaway food

 Should businesses have single-use plastic products left over when the ban comes into effect, they should speak to their local Council as well as suppliers and any trade association about how to recycle it. Once the bans are in force, businesses will be responsible for paying any costs they incur in recycling or disposing of excess stock.

Enforcement of the ban

Cutlery (1)In the coming months, Shared Regulatory Services will continue to work with business to achieve compliance with the new requirements, offering advice and signposting to sources of information. This will be achieved largely through existing inspection regimes.

It is envisaged that, as was the case with the introduction of the single use carrier bag charge some years ago, the new law will embed itself smoothly, with full compliance being achieved.

All the indications are that as a result of similar bans already introduced elsewhere in the UK (Scotland in 2022 and England on 1st October 2023), those larger scale businesses trading across the different administrations will have already introduced the necessary changes. Further down the line, should enforcement action be required in the case of any on-going non-compliance, then the 2023 Act makes provision for a number of enforcement options which include civil sanctions as well as prosecution.  

What’s next?

Phase 2 of the ban on single-use plastic products will take effect at a later date (possibly in the Spring of 2026) and will see the prohibition of the sale and supply of single-use plastic carrier bags, polystyrene lids for drink and food containers, and products made of oxo-degradable plastic.

Details of products to be banned from 30th October 2023 can be found here