Assessing the impacts of a single-use plastics ban in Wales

Resource Futures conducted preliminary research to help the Welsh Government understand the impact in Wales of a ban or restriction in sale of items in the EU’s single-use plastics directive.

The research established the potential impacts of such a ban on the Welsh economy, including manufacturing, environment and society. The information gathered has helped inform policy decisions and has shaped the development of legislation.

Objectives

Specific objectives of this research included:

  1. Building upon previous work from Resource Futures to help determine the potential social, environmental and economic impacts from the introduction of bans or restriction in sales in Wales of the following single use plastic items: cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, beverage stirrers, sticks to support balloons, expanded polystyrene food and drink containers, and oxo-degradable products.
  2. Focusing on the economic impacts in Wales with respect to Welsh Local Authorities (e.g. impact on the cost of clearing litter and enforcement), Welsh manufacturing companies, and the restaurant, fast-food and catering sectors in Wales and other impacted SMEs (e.g. those operating in the tourism sector).
  3. Considering and reporting any gaps in the evidence found in fulfilling objectives 1 and 2 and addressing these through economic modelling.

Approach

Resource Futures undertook this research for the Welsh Government between October 2019 and January 2020.

The overall research methods used were:

  • Literature review
  • Market mapping in Wales
  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Development of impact model

Desk-based research methods were used to explore the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of the ban or restriction in sale of the single-use plastic items, as well as any unintended consequences from switching to another product/material.

The research built upon previous work conducted by Resource Futures (see below) with additional research undertaken through a literature review, consultation with 29 key stakeholder organisations, and a quantitative model to understand the potential specific impacts in Wales.

Previous work:

A preliminary assessment of the economic, environmental and social impacts of a potential ban on plastic straws, plastic stem cotton buds and plastics drinks stirrers

A preliminary assessment of the economic impacts of a potential ban on plastic cutlery, plastic plates and plastic balloon sticks

A preliminary assessment of the economic impacts of a potential ban on expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers

Outcomes

The Welsh Government published our report in May 2020.

The report was used as an evidence base for future policy. Following the publication of the report, the Welsh Government opened a consultation in July 2020 regarding a proposal to ban nine single-use plastic products in Wales. The consultation period ended in October 2020, and responses are currently being reviewed by the government.

In terms of project findings, the greatest economic impacts estimated were seen in the increased sales value, which increased by 11% (£14 million) across the product group as a whole, driven by the price difference between plastic and non-plastic products. The revenue to UK manufacturers was the second most significant economic impact estimated in the model, increasing by 46% (£9 million). This is important when considering that this revenue could be retained in the Welsh economy if Welsh manufacturers respond to the demand for non-plastic products.

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