Bans and restrictions on a range of single-use plastic items have come into force this weekend (1 October) in England.
No business – whether retailer, takeaway, food vendor or part of the hospitality industry – will now be able to sell single-use plastic cutlery, balloon sticks nor polystyrene cups and food containers. The supply of single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls has also been restricted.
The new regulations were announced in January and the government said extensive work has taken place throughout the year to provide further guidance on the ban for businesses.
Research shows people across England use 2.7 billion items of mostly plastic single-use cutlery and 721 million single-use plates every year, but only 10 per cent of these are recycled.
“This new ban is the next big step in our mission to crack down on harmful plastic waste. It will protect the environment and help to cut litter – stopping plastic pollution dirtying our streets and threatening our wildlife,” environment minister Rebecca Pow said.
“This builds on world-leading bans on straws, stirrers and cotton buds, our single-use carrier bag charge and our plastic packaging tax, helping us on our journey to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.”
The ban will not apply to single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items as these will be included in the plans for an extended producer responsibility scheme, which will incentivise producers to use less packaging and meet higher recycling targets.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the measure.
“Hospitality businesses have made huge strides in reducing their plastic usage and that progress has resulted in the vast majority of venues already eliminating single-use cutlery from their operations, a crucial part of our ambitions to reach net zero,” Nicholls said.
“We’ve been pleased to work with the government to ensure these new bans and restrictions are also practical for hospitality businesses, all while working towards the nation’s sustainability goals.”
The single-use plastics ban is part of the government’s wider action to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution and eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. The government has already banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products in 2018 and restricted the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in 2020.
The government also introduced the plastic packaging tax in April 2022, a tax of more than £200 per tonne on plastic packaging manufactured in or imported to the UK that does not contain at least 30 per cent recycled plastic.
Elsewhere, the government’s hugely successful single-use carrier bag charge has cut sales in the main supermarkets by more than 98 per cent since its introduction in 2015, taking billions of bags out of circulation.
Meanwhile, a ban on single-use plastics will go live in Wales on 30 October, barring retailers from selling and supplying the following single-use plastic products:
- Plates – this includes paper plates with a laminated plastic surface
- Cutlery – for example forks, spoons, knives
- Drinks stirrers – those designed for stirring drinks or liquid food
- Cups made of expanded or foamed extruded polystyrene
- Takeaway food containers made of expanded or foamed extruded polystyrene
- Sticks for balloons
- Plastic-stemmed cotton buds
- Drinking straws