England single-use plastic ban to be enforced from October 2023

Single-use plastic plates, bowls, trays, cutlery, and certain types of polystyrene containers, are some of the items which will be banned in England.

Plastic pollution remains one of the most challenging factors concerning environmental impact. Government figures claim 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery, most of which are plastic, and 721 million single-use plates are used in England every year. Only 10% of these are recycled after being used.

Government confirmed at the weekend that restaurants, cafes, and takeaway establishments will not be allowed to distribute single-use plastic items and certain types of polystyrene cups and containers from 1 October 2023, subject to parliamentary approval. The bans will also cover items made from plastic that is bio-based, biodegradable or compostable. This is because government feel they are still inherently single-use, and there is no solid evidence that they break down harmlessly in open environments.

Similar bans have already been made in Scotland and Wales, while single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds were already banned in England in 2020. Supermarkets have not been exempted from the bans and should expect their sale of single-use plates, bowls, trays, and cutlery to be restricted from October next year.  

Positive response

The announcement made by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, came in the wake of the long-awaited response to the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) consultation on banning certain single-use plastic items, which was held in 2021.

Over 95% of the responses from members of the public and non-governmental organisations demonstrated overwhelming support for government’s proposals for the bans. Responses from businesses varied, with approximately 20% opposing all bans, while others were supportive of the proposals but raised the concern that banning these items would see a shift to other single-use items and urged the government to do more to tackle single-use culture.

What does this mean for producers?

It is confirmed that the ban will not apply to items used as packaging for takeaway food and drink in supermarkets and shops, with government saying it would look at other measures for the sector. Manufacturers of products including this packaging will be required to contribute to the cost of their recycling, under changes to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements.

Ecosurety’s Policy advisor, Louisa Goodfellow commented "We are pleased to see England will keep pace with developing single-use plastic bans in the other three devolved nations, and the EU.

“It’s appropriate that ‘shelf-ready’ plastic packaging will not be restricted and instead fall under government’s EPR measures until there are suitable substitutes on the market. What should be considered ahead of October, however, is that alternatives to restricted items don’t result in adverse material switching, which could have worse overall environmental impacts."

You can read the summary of the government consultation here.

Written by Mma-tshepo Grobler Published 17/01/2023 Topics Sustainability
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