England will ban a wide range of single-use plastic items from October including plates and cutlery in order to limit their “devastating” effect on the environment, the government said Saturday.
The new legislation will also cover single-use trays and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers, the environment ministry announced.
The department said England uses around 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery per year, mostly plastic, with only one in 10 items recycled.
Environmental policy is a devolved issue for the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK government sets policy in England.
Similar legislation has already been passed in Scotland and Wales.
Repeated breaches of the ban could end up constituting a criminal offence with offenders running the risk of a fine, said the department.
“We all know the absolutely devastating impacts that plastic can have on our environment and wildlife,” said UK Environment Secretary Therese Coffey.
“We have listened to the public and these new single-use plastics bans will continue our vital work to protect the environment for future generations,” she added.
The ban will not extend to supermarket ready meals, said the government.
Matt Hood, managing director at supermarket chain Co-op, welcomed the ban.
“We have been at the forefront of eradicating unnecessary plastic, so it is encouraging to see this ban being introduced and we have already removed plastic cutlery from our food to go, offering wooden forks instead,” he said.
But environmental group Greenpeace UK said the plans did not go far enough.
“Whilst it’s welcome that the government’s finally banned certain items, we’re dealing with a plastic flood, and this is like reaching for a mop instead of turning off the tap,” said Megan Randles, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK.
“It’s time to stop pandering to industry lobbyists; stop promoting false solutions; and stop dumping our plastic waste in countries that have done the least to cause the climate crisis,” she added.
The government claimed previous bans, such as banning straws, stirrers and cotton buds, have reduced the damage from these plastics.
Before these products are banned, it was estimated straws, stirrers and cotton buds collectively contributed to around 5.7 per cent of marine litter. After the ban in 2020, the Great British Beach Clean 2021 reported cotton bud sticks had moved out of the UK’s top ten most common beach litter items.
The government added that it is also considering further measures around other commonly littered and problematic plastic items, including wet wipes, tobacco filters and sachets, following the call for evidence on this issue.