Wales has moved a step closer to becoming the first country in the UK to ban thin plastic single-use carrier bags, with anyone caught supplying them facing prosecution in a magistrates court and a fine.
Flimsy plastic bags are included in a lengthy list of items to be prohibited if a bill put before the Welsh parliament on Tuesday becomes law.
The minister for climate change, Julie James, said the move would be a boost for the environment, tackle littering and challenge modern “throwaway culture”.
She said: “This is a big moment in our journey towards a plastic-free Wales. Single-use plastic products are often seen littered in our streets, parks and seas. Not only are they unsightly, but they have a devastating impact on our wildlife and environment.
“We have to say no to the single-use item culture, so we avoid leaving a toxic legacy of plastic for future generations to deal with.”
In 2011, Wales became one of the first countries in the world to introduce a charge for single-use carrier bags.
It claims to still be at the forefront of action on plastic, with Wales the first part of the UK to legislate against a comprehensive list of single-use plastics.
Other single-use plastic items that would be banned include cutlery, plates, stirrers, plastic-stemmed cotton buds, balloon sticks, some fast food containers and drinking straws – though the final item has an exemption for health needs.
There will be disappointment that wet wipes do not appear on the list. The Welsh government said there were issues over the labelling of the products and what went into the various brands, and that it was unclear what the impact of alternatives was.
But the legislation is being framed in such a way that it should be easier to include further items in future.
The deputy chief executive of Keep Wales Tidy, Louise Tambini, welcomed the development: “It is a positive step on our journey towards truly transforming the way we consume plastics and reduce waste as a nation.”
Other political parties largely backed the bill from the Labour-run government, though the Tories pointed out that England and Scotland had already banned some items on the Welsh government’s list.
Janet Finch-Saunders, who speaks on climate change for the Conservative party in the Welsh parliament, said: “This is typical Labour – late again and chasing headlines.” She also questioned whether under-pressure local authorities would be able to enforce the law.