Plastic straws, cotton buds and balloon sticks could be outlawed in Wales by 2021

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 18 March 2020

Plans to scrap a number single-use plastic items have been announced by the Welsh government. A ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds is set to come into force in England in April, but the Welsh measures focus on a longer list of single-use plastics recently banned by a new EU directive and so could go further.

Plastic straws found on beachclean
© Natasha Ewins

We want them to be able to go further than other countries and ban other single use items in the future, such as other forms of food and drinks containers like coffee cups and sachets.

Gill Bell,
MCS Head of Conservation, Wales

MCS, Head of Conservation, Wales, Gill Bell, welcomed the announcement, saying: “MCS has been working towards this for over ten years so it is fantastic news that the Welsh Government has decided to ban these single use items. We need this to come into effect as soon as possible.”

In England, legislation is currently making its way through parliament with a ban on straws, stirrers and cotton bud sticks due to come into force next month. Under the Welsh plans, plastic straws, cotton buds and polystyrene food and drink containers will either be banned or have their sale restricted and there will also be a focus on a longer list of single-use plastics recently banned by a new EU directive. Scotland has already banned plastic-stemmed cotton buds and, like Wales, intends to match the recent EU directive.

On the plans in Wales, Gill Bell added: “We want them to be able to go further than other countries and ban other single use items in the future, such as other forms of food and drinks containers like coffee cups and sachets. Now we need an effective ‘all in’ Deposit Return System’ to compliment these actions and work towards delivering a true circular economy for Wales.”

The minister in charge of recycling, Hannah Blythyn, said the Welsh Government would carry out a public consultation “to understand the impact of this proposal, particularly on any citizens who may be reliant on some of the items we have included, to make sure we get it right.”

The minister added: “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.”

The announcement comes hot on the heels of a new study by researchers at the University of Plymouth which suggested that Lego could survive in the ocean for up to 1,300 years. They compared bricks that had washed up on the coastlines of south-west England to unused pieces and said they were surprised how durable the children’s toys were. The study, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, estimated that the plastic bricks could last for between 100 and 1,300 years.

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