(Title Image: Independent)
Yesterday, Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) put forward a proposal for a Bill which would address an issue that’s been discussed in the Senedd several times – single-use plastic and plastic waste.
Financial penalties work
His proposed Bill would set targets for the Welsh Government to reduce the use of specific types of single-use plastic and would also grant powers to introduce taxes and levies – which could take into account the amount of recycled material used in the product. He said single-use plastics were implicated in several environmental risks encompassing land, food and water. There was also evidence that taxes and levies work:
“Introducing a 5p paper cup levy led to a 156% increase in the use of reusable cups in just six weeks in Starbucks in London. It works. Evidence shows the greater the plastics levy, the greater the impact. In Wales, we could extend this to harmful products that fall outside the extended producer responsibility and market restrictions, so plastic clothing and balloons, chewing gum, single-use pens, protected postal packaging and wet wipes.”
– Huw Irranca-Davies AM
Delyth Jewell AM (Plaid, South Wales East) didn’t believe this was a problem that the nation could recycle itself out of simply because of the effect plastic existing has on the environment. She called on the Welsh Government to consider banning single-use plastic bags as soon as possible (as 70 other nations have done). There was also a need to better educate the public to make informed choices – such as improved product labelling.
Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) added that Wales has an enviable record in recycling some issues have emerged such as corn starch food waste bags clogging up machinery and, ironically, being replaced with plastic. There were also major issues with the amount of plastic waste generated by major events.
“We heard of the possible contribution of different levies and I agree – we need to look at things such as clothes that include plastics, we need to look at balloons, we need to look at single-use pens. One of the things that angers me is receiving all of this packaging in the post. We do have to be far less content to accept these situations. We need to look at exemptions for zero-waste shops.”
– Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales)
David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) said there were many legitimate uses for plastic so we shouldn’t, and probably couldn’t, eliminate their use. He expressed support for a deposit return scheme.
Rhianon Passmore AM (Lab, Islwyn) believed public procurement policies could be a driver for change, such as Caerphilly Council’s pledge to only provide plastic-free menstrual products. Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West) praised the work of voluntary groups who collect plastic waste.
Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) added that the 5p single-use plastic bag charge was deemed groundbreaking at the time and has already massively reduced their use. However, it was unacceptable that we allow any of our waste to be exported, which often ends up “dumped on the poorest people on the planet”.
Singing from the same hymn sheet
Deputy Minister for Housing & Local Government, Hannah Blythyn (Lab, Delyn), said there was an awful lot of political and societal will to deal with the matter and she was “singing from the same hymn sheet” as those who contributed to the debate.
The Deputy Minister listed many actions the Welsh Government have taken or will take, including requiring businesses to separately collect recyclable material and a general strategy to create a more circular economy.
The Welsh Government were also still working on plans to ban the most commonly used single-use plastics: