Ten years after Wales brought in a plastic bag charge, in a UK first, plans are now afoot to impose a similar fee on other single-use items that are commonly littered.

Both the Welsh and UK governments are pursuing new laws that will force consumers to pay for the types of single-use item that typify the modern throwaway culture and contribute so much to landfill.

Recently, the Senedd voted to accept UK proposals for a charge scheme that would extend beyond single-use plastics and cover other "unnecessary" disposable products.

READ MORE: 

Climate Change Minister Julie James said charging people to use these items "provides a strong disincentive to producing single-use products".

The Welsh Government will also be preparing its own law, for Wales, on charging for single-use items.

Although it will be some time before these policies are finalised, the principle of a new charge has been welcomed by environmental campaigners from Gwent.

In Newport, Laura Parry, the co-founder of the city's first zero-waste shop, said the proposals were "a great step towards encouraging a reusable culture, instead of the throwaway one we're all so used to today".

The National Wales: Laura Parry and Liz Morgan are the founders of Sero Zero WasteLaura Parry and Liz Morgan are the founders of Sero Zero Waste

Together with her friend Liz Morgan, her shop Sero Zero Waste sells ethically-sourced household and cosmetic items, with customers asked to bring and fill up their own containers instead of relying on the plastic bags that are commonplace in supermarkets.

Sero Waste was the winner of the Environmental Entrepreneur Award at our inaugural National Environmental Awards earlier this month

"Not only are our consumption habits using up earth's natural resources at an alarming rate, but the plastic we are producing lasts a lifetime – sometimes several – and it never truly disappears, so we really need to see a shift away from single-use," Ms Parry said.

"It's not right that it should be less affordable to make sustainable choices in our shopping habits, so moving away from single-use plastic being the cheapest option is a step in the right direction."

Fewer single-use items should, it is hoped, lead to less littering. In Monmouthshire, Graham Eele, of environmental group Transition Chepstow, said that while a charge for single-use items was "in principle a great idea", takeaway products would still be in demand, and there would need to be a wider cultural shift to "get people to use less and reuse more".

"I wouldn't want to argue against [the charge scheme] – the tax on plastic bags has been extremely effective," he said. "We need to educate people about their impact on the environment. That's not a tax matter.

"This is part of the solution, but it's not the solution." 

What else could the Welsh Government do?

While a charge on products would be paid by the customer, Ms Parry says the companies that make single-use items should also be held responsible.

"The cost shouldn't lie with the consumer but those producing single use products or packaging," she said. "Introducing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) means the financial responsibility for dealing with the waste caused by single use items will lie with those producing them – a real incentive to change the design of these problematic products."

And a deposit return scheme could be an effective way of rewarding people who send containers, such as cans and glass bottles, back to the manufacturer for reuse.

READ MORE: 

The scheme works in the same way that we commonly used to send our milk bottles back to the dairy, and it is already popular in countries like Germany and Sweden.

In fact, you may have seen the 'PANT 1KR' symbols on various drinks cans here – meaning people in Sweden can take those empty tins to participating supermarkets and claim back one krona (around 9p) for every item they return.

Of course, government can't legislate for everything in our lives, and there are plenty of changes people can make as individuals.

The so-called three R's of recycling are reduce, reuse, and recycle – and they are listed in order of importance.

As well as recycling waste, we can all dramatically cut down on the amount of items that we put out for collections each week by reducing consumption of unnecessary items, reusing what we can, and opting for reusable alternatives to many single-use items. 

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.