LETTER: Deep Sagar on ‘inflationary’ single use plastics bans

With the Welsh Government introducing a bill this week which will ban a range of single use items if approved, the chair of the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging has written to letsrecycle.com.

The letter from Deep Sagar comes after the Welsh government hailed its plans as “ground-breaking”(see letsrecycle.com story). If approved, a range of items including single-use carrier bags and oxo-degradable plastics would be banned. In his letter (below), Mr Sagar warns that bans of this kind are inflationary, and said the measures could add 11% to consumer costs.

LETTER

Dear Editor, 

The Welsh Government’s bill to ban many single-use plastic items is disappointing. In 14 detailed documents they quietly bury the point that the public will end up paying 11% more and that the economic justification depends mainly on the public being prepared to pay more for the reduction of litter.  At best these are ambitious estimates. Additionally, they liken this to the grocery bag charge. How exactly is availability at a price similar to a ban I fail to understand.

My committee has consistently advised governments (most recently the Scottish Government and Defra) that (a) plastic is a difficult material since recycling is not easy, (b) reduction, reuse or recycling have to be encouraged in preference to single-use but (c) still bans should only be considered if human health is being harmed or environmental harm is large and impossible to reduce. In the case of single-use plastic neither condition is met.

Bans are inflationary unless enough alternatives are available and have been put into common use by consumers. I wish the Welsh Government considered putting a charge on single-use items or voluntary initiatives by businesses or just encouragement of the public to better habits.

Deep Sagar is chair of Defra’s Advisory Commitee on Packaging

Lastly, my committee has highlighted the positive impact of initiatives already on. The Plastic Packaging Tax is surely having an impact. WRAP’s Plastic Pact, Ecosurety’s Plastic Fund and the like do matter. And of course Extended Producer Responsibility regulations have all the power governments need to reduce or recycle waste or increase reuse.

The Welsh Government needs to be congratulated for many environmental initiatives. Sadly, this one is not one of them and certainly not in the way it is being introduced.

Best,

Deep Sagar
Chair, Advisory Committee on Packaging
Berkhamsted,
Buckinghamshire

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