INTRODUCING a deposit return scheme on plastic packaging and a new tax on producers using non-recycled material are among measures the Welsh Government should consider introducing to battle so-called plastic pollution, a report has said.

Concerns over the amount of plastic in the world's seas, rivers and other waterways have grown in recent weeks, months and years, and mass youth-led protests across the UK this year have brought strength of feeling over the issue into stark contrast.

Last month the Welsh Government declared a 'climate emergency', with a number of councils in Wales since following suit - but now a report by the Welsh Assembly's Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee has said this does not go far enough, and sets out a proposal for a 10-year strategy to reduce the amount of plastic pollution, as well as the use of plastic overall.


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Among the measures suggested by the committee are for a deposit return scheme - where a small extra cost is added to the price of packaged goods, which is then repaid when the packaging is returned for recycling - to be introduced, as well as a new tax on the use on non-recycled plastic. The committee also suggested manufacturers should be required to pay towards the cost of disposing of packaging used in their products and steps should be taken to reduce the amount of fishing gear being discarded in the sea.

It also said work should be done to cut the amount of so-called microplastics - tiny pieces of plastic - possibly through legislation. Non-biodegradable wet wipes are said to be particularly problematic in this regard.

In his introduction to the report, committee chairman Mike Hedges described plastic pollution as "one of the greatest challenges facing our planet".

"Wales can’t solve this global problem on its own, but we cannot wait any longer, it’s important that we step up and take a lead where we can," he said.

"Gannets strangled by plastic on an uninhabited Welsh Island, sweet wrappers and plastic bags found seven miles under the ocean, plastics in the guts of dead fish, sea birds and marine mammals - distressing images such as these are becoming increasingly familiar. It is becoming more difficult to ignore the damage we are doing to our planet.

South Wales Argus:

Committee chairman Mike Hedges

He added: "We have recently seen mass public demonstrations, involving both young and old, to demand action from government. They realise, as we do, that we are in the midst of an environmental crisis - climate change, plastic pollution, biodiversity devastation.

"We need change at a systemic level if we are to meet this challenge. And we are running out of time.

"In April 2019, the Welsh Government declared a 'climate emergency'. We commend this. But overall, we are disappointed that the Welsh Government is not getting to grips with the scale of the problem.

"We shouldn’t wait for others and must take the lead where we can. The public are supportive – we must harness their energy and enthusiasm and bring forward ambitious and transformative policies."

Estimates suggest 12.2 million tonnes of plastic end up in the sea every year. Microplastics account for about 0.95 million tonnes of this. And research by Cardiff University has found half of all insects in the River Taff contain plastic.

The report has been submitted to the Welsh Government for consideration.