This note is provided to assist churches in Wales.
It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be regarded as such.
1. Prohibition of the supply of some single-use plastics from 30 October 2023
Many churches are already voluntarily reducing or eliminating their use of single-use plastic. Earlier this year, Senedd Cymru passed the Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Act 2023. On 24 October 2023, the Senedd decided that most – but not all – of the provisions of that Act would come into force on 30 October 2023.
From that date it has been illegal to supply (whether for sale or free of charge) certain single-use plastic items. These are:
- Single-use plastic plates – this includes paper plates with a laminated plastic surface
- Single-use plastic cutlery – for example forks, spoons, knives
- Single-use plastic drinks stirrers
- Cups made of expanded or foamed extruded polystyrene
- Takeaway food containers made of expanded or foamed extruded polystyrene
- Single-use plastic balloon sticks
- Single-use plastic-stemmed cotton buds
- Single-use plastic drinking straws – with exemptions so people who need them to eat and drink safely and independently can continue to have them
This covers all single-use plastic versions of these products, including those that are made of other materials but laminated with plastic, and plastic items that claim to be biodegradable or compostable. The use of such terminology on the product or its packaging will not make it legal.
For many churches, a return to using traditional crockery and cutlery is the simplest response. But in some settings this may not be possible. In that case, churches must use either reusable items made from other materials (which can include items made of reusable hard plastic), or with disposable versions made of non-plastic materials, such as paper, wood or cardboard.
It is the responsibility of the local church and the users of its premises (and ultimately of the trustees of that church, in accordance with the relevant denominational structure) to ensure that these rules are followed.
Possessing single-use plastic items will not be an offence, but as they can no longer be supplied – even free of charge – all items (other than plastic straws required for use by those who have a specific need to use them to eat or drink) should be disposed of responsibly. Some local authorities or other recycling agents (such as some supermarkets) may be able to take some or all of these items for recycling – please enquire locally.
Additional information can be found in the Welsh Government guidance document. It is intended to extend the ban to additional products in due course, and the Act allows Welsh Ministers to add to this list.
2. Separating waste for recycling and tightening food waste regulations from 6 April 2024
Most churches are already conscientious about recycling as much of their waste as possible. It is, of course, good practice to reduce the amount of waste you send to recycling by finding ways to re-use items safely, or turn them into something else – many church children’s groups enjoy junk modelling, and will already, for example, use empty egg boxes for a multitude of games and so on.
From 6 April 2024, all non-domestic premises – including churches, community halls, etc – will be required to sort their waste for recycling more thoroughly. This is to ensure the waste can actually be recycled – mixed waste can cause cross-contamination and prevent recycling.
The Waste Separation Requirements (Wales) Regulations 2023, approved by the Senedd on November 28 2023, require that waste for recycling will need to be separated by the owner/manager of premises, or by the operator of an activity, into six separate containers:
- Plastic, metal and cartons and other similar packaging – but remember that the supply of many single-use plastic items was banned on 30 October 2023
- Paper and card
- Food waste (see further below)
- Unsold* small electrical equipment
- Unsold* textiles
* “Unsold” is defined as follows: an unused consumer product, in a factory, retail premises, wholesaler, warehouse or other premises, that has not been sold to a consumer or has been sold and returned by a consumer so these categories are unlikely to apply initially to churches or charity shops which sell second-hand goods. However, Welsh Government’s stated intention is to extend the requirement to recycle to all textiles within three years, and all small electrical equipment within two years, so churches should start to get ready for this change now.
It will be illegal to send waste in any of the above categories (or “sub-fractions”, as they are called in the regulations) to incineration or landfill, and it will be illegal to send wood waste to landfill (although it can still be incinerated).
The full definitions of each of the six categories, as contained in the regulations, are included as an appendix below. Further guidance is available on the Welsh Government website. There is further detail on the exact definitions of these materials, what to do with waste made of mixtures of different materials, and so on in the draft code of practice. This is not easy to navigate, and Cytûn has written to Welsh Government making a large number of suggestions as to how this guidance and code of practice could be made clearer. It is to be hoped that more user-friendly guidance will be published before April 6. Cytûn will update this briefing note when that happens.
Placing the incorrect waste in the incorrect container could lead to a fixed penalty notice (fine) being issued by the local authority, although Welsh Government say that the intention is to remind and educate first before applying penalties. The managers and trustees of multi-use premises – such as many church buildings – should therefore begin to ensure that all users are aware of the new regulations and how to recycle waste in future well in advance of April 2024.
Hazardous waste (such as batteries, solvents, pesticides, and so on) will – as now – need to be disposed of safely and separately from the recycling containers.
Definitions of household and commercial waste
Most places of worship, “premises used wholly or mainly for public meetings” (such as church halls and community centres) and charity shops are eligible for free household waste collection under the Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012. For churches, the only exceptions are likely to be church cafes or shops which operate on a commercial basis, and residential centres, which need to arrange commercial waste collection. We understand that Welsh Government is not intending to amend the 2012 regulations.
However, even those premises eligible for free household waste collection will need to separate their waste into six containers as described above. It will be for the local authority to determine how these are collected – whether free of charge by its commercial waste collection service, or (as now in most cases) by its household waste collection, and how to deal with the differences in separation requirements between domestic premises (homes) and these new regulations.
Churches may be approached by local authorities seeking to transfer them to their commercial waste collection service from April 2024. If so, churches should ensure that this collection will continue to be free of charge, and if necessary refer the local authority to the 2012 regulations.
The legal requirement to separate and recycle food waste will apply to premises that produce 5kg or more of food waste per week (if you produce less, it will be legal to put food waste in the general, non-recyclable, waste stream). However, it is good practice to separate and recycle all food waste, even small amounts, and this can be collected free of charge as household waste. We would therefore encourage churches to do so.
In addition, there will be a ban on disposing any amount of food waste down the sink or into a public drain or sewer. This applies not only to pouring food directly into the sink or drain, but means it will no longer be permitted to use equipment such as macerators, enzyme digesters or de-waterers. Churches should ensure that users of their premises are aware of this. You will not have to uninstall any such equipment you have, but it is probably a good idea to uninstall or disconnect it, in order that it is not used by accident. Discharge of food waste into the public drains or sewers will be an offence and if this does happen, fixed penalty notices may be issued to the premises or operator concerned.
Appendix: Definitions of the waste sub-fractions
(in all cases hazardous waste is excluded and must be disposed of separately)
- Glass bottles used as packaging
- Glass jars used as packaging
2. Cartons and similar, metal and plastic
a) Cartons and similar
Fibre-based composite packaging, being packaging material which is made of paperboard or paper fibres, laminated with low density polythene or polypropylene plastic, and which may also have layers of other materials, to form a single unit that cannot be separated by hand, limited to:
Paper drinks cups with a low density polythene or polypropylene plastic layer
- Rigid paper containers
- Aluminium foil
- Aluminium food trays
- Aluminium tubes
- Steel and aluminium aerosols
- Steel and aluminium jar and bottle lids and caps
- Steel and aluminium tins and cans
- Amorphous polyethylene terephthalate and crystallised polyethylene terephthalate plastic packaging comprising pots, tubs, trays, rigid and semi-rigid lids and clear cups except where the plastic contains carbon black pigment so that it is not near infrared detectable
- Amorphous polyethylene terephthalate plastic bottles except where the plastic contains carbon black pigment so that it is not near infrared detectable
- High density polyethylene and low density polyethylene packaging comprising pots, tubs, trays and rigid and semi-rigid lids except where the plastic contains carbon black pigment so that it is not near infrared detectable
- High density polyethylene and low density polyethylene plastic bottles, pumps and triggers except where the plastic contains carbon black pigment so that it is not near infrared detectable
- Polypropylene and expanded polypropylene plastic packaging comprising pots, tubs, trays, rigid and semirigid lids and clear cups except where the plastic contains carbon black pigment so that it is not near infrared detectable
- Polyethylene and polypropylene plastic packaging tubes except:
where they are less than 50x50mm,
where they have contained products used in construction works,
where they have a metal layer,
or where they are multi-monomer plastic
- Polypropylene plastic bottles, pumps and triggers except where the plastic contains carbon black pigment so that it is not near infrared detectable
3. Paper and card
All paper and card except:
- Fibre-based composite packaging, being packaging material which is made of paperboard or paper fibres, laminated with plastic, and which may also have layers of other materials, to form a single unit that cannot be separated by hand
- Hardback books
- Padded polyethylene lined envelopes
- Paper and card containing glitter or foil
- Paper and card contaminated with food, paint, oil or grease
- Paper and card that has been laminated
- Paper towels, tissues, wet wipes, kitchen roll
- Scratch cards
- Shredded paper
- Stickers and sticky notes
- Till receipts
- Wax, silicone, greaseproof papers
4. Food waste
All food waste (with some very limited exceptions)
5. Unsold small waste electrical and electronic equipment
All unsold small waste electrical and electronic equipment (as defined above)
6. Unsold textiles
- Non-clothing textiles including carpets and carpet tiles, leisure textiles (such as tents and tarpaulins), mattresses, rugs, soft furnishings (such as curtains, bedsheets, blankets, duvets, pillows, towels), underlay
- Packaging made from textiles
Parch./Revd Gethin Rhys
Swyddog Polisi / Policy Officer
Cytûn: Eglwysi Ynghyd yng Nghymru | Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales
Swyddfa gofrestredig: Tŷ Hastings House, Llys Fitzalan Court, Caerdydd/Cardiff CF24 0BL
Mudol/Mobile: +44 (0)7889 858062
Hapus i gyfathrebu yn Gymraeg neu Saesneg. Happy to communicate in Welsh or English
Mae Cytûn yn gwmni cofrestredig yng Nghymru a Lloegr | Rhif: 05853982 | Enw cofrestredig: “Cytûn: Eglwysi Ynghyd yng Nghymru/Churches Together in Wales Limited” | Mae Cytûn yn elusen gofrestredig | Rhif: 1117071 |
Cytûn is a registered company in England and Wales | Number: 05853982 | Registered name: “Cytûn: Eglwysi Ynghyd yng Nghymru/Churches Together in Wales Limited” | Cytûn is a registered charity | Number: 1117071