New single-use plastics bans come into force in England

With the start of October, items including single-use plastic cutlery, polystyrene cups and balloon sticks are banned from sale are banned from sale and distribution in England.

New single-use plastics bans come into force in England

Plastic cutlery is one of several kinds of product included in the fresh wave of bans

From today (1 October), all businesses in England will be banned from selling and distributing single-use polystyrene cups or balloon sticks. These items were selected by the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) as they are commonly littered and challenging to recycle.

The ban will also apply to plastic cutlery plus bowls, trays and plates made from polystyrene that are distributed by restaurants, cafes, takeaways and catering firms. In 2024, this ban may extended to supermarkets.

In any case, businesses manufacturing single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items will be subject to new charges to help fund the recycling of these items. The charges will be enforced under changes to the extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for the packaging sector.

According to Defra estimates, England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery — most of which are plastic — and 721 million single-use plates per year, but only 10% are recycled. If 2.7 billion pieces of cutlery were lined up they would go round the world over eight and a half times (based on a 15cm piece of cutlery).

Defra has stated that it consulted extensively with the industry before designing the bans, which were first confirmed this January. 95% of organisations and individuals responding to its consultations were in favour.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said : “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.

“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 on plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds Pow is referring to came into force in England in autumn 2020. The plastic packaging tax, meanwhile, has been operational since April 2022. It levies an increased rate of tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content.

Earlier this week, the results of a survey of 2,000 UK-based adults were revealed, confirming that three-quarters would prefer to buy products housed in plastic-free packaging.

Additionally, the poll from Xampla and Yonder found that 54% believe plastic will soon become “a material of the past” in Britain.

Nonetheless, globally, the production of virgin plastics is likely to increase by 66% through to 2040 without further intervenions from policymakers, according to a recent study from Systemiq and the Nordic Council.

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