No tax on disposable plastic in Wales – yet

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 13 February 2018

There’s disappointing news from Wales this afternoon after the Welsh Government decided not to go ahead with a tax to tackle single-use plastic.

Litter rocky beach
© Natasha Ewins

This tax would be a step forwards towards Wales becoming the sustainable nation it wants to be.

Gill Bell,
MCS Head of Conservation Wales

Last year, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford AM, announced four shortlisted ‘tax’ ideas to test new devolved tax raising powers under the Wales Act (2014).

The four shortlisted ideas were a vacant land tax; a disposable plastics tax; a social care levy and a tourism tax.

A tax on single-use plastics would have been a big step towards reducing shocking levels of litter in our seas and put Wales at the forefront of sustainability. The tax would have promoted behaviour change by encouraging people to use less plastic, particularly when they are ‘on the go’.

Our Great British Beach Clean results show that litter in Wales has increased by 11% since 2016 and ‘single use plastic’ is also on the rise.

A public opinion poll was launched by the Welsh Government to find out which tax was preferred by people living in Wales. It was highlighted in the Welsh Assembly recently that the ‘single use plastic tax’ idea was a popular choice by those who voted.

In a statement from the Welsh Government today, the Finance Secretary. Mark Drakeford said: “A vacant land tax will be used to test the Wales Act mechanism. Housing is a priority for this Government. A vacant land tax could help to incentivise more timely development by making it more expensive to hold on to land, which has been identified as suitable for development.”

He added: “There has been considerable interest in, and support for, a tax on disposable plastics in Wales. Since the original short list was published, however, the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Budget that the UK Government will launch a call for evidence about how it will address the issue of single use plastics, including through the use of tax.

“Whatever its merits, that announcement creates a road black in the path of any Wales-only proposal. The risk is too high that the UK Government would simply respond to a Wales-only plastics tax by saying that its consideration would have to wait until the call for evidence process is complete.”

Mr Drakeford said however that it remains an option for Wales and will be informed by the results of an extended producer responsibility study, which is due to report shortly.

Gill Bell, MCS Head of Conservation, Wales said she was disappointed by today’s announcement. “I will be seeking assurances that there is still an ambition from the Welsh Government to introduce legislation which will reduce the amount of litter ending up on Welsh beaches and in our seas.

“MCS believe a tax on disposable plastic would be supported by the Welsh public as demonstrated by the success of the single use carrier bag charge and in the Welsh Government’s public poll on taxation. This tax would be a step forwards towards Wales becoming the sustainable nation it wants to be.”

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  2. Help us stop the plastic tide
  3. Discover more about MCS in Wales

Did you know?…

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes

Basking sharks can be spotted feeding on plankton in Welsh waters