The Scottish Government is “proposing a ban on almost all food containers, including bio-based and compostable products” claimed a Vegware blog published on Friday.
No it’s not. At least not as part of the current consultation on market restrictions for various single-use plastic items, which could come into force by the end of next year.
A spokesperson from the Scottish Government told Footprint: “We recently had a very productive meeting with Vegware and made it very clear that only expanded polystyrene food containers are in scope for these market restrictions and that we would be engaging fully on plans for food containers more broadly at a later date.”
Indeed, going forward there could be wider bans. Single-use plastic cups and food containers will be the subject of “consumption reduction” targets in years to come (if the UK chooses to align with the directive).
But for the time being the focus is on a list of nine items or materials. To recap, these are:
- Single-use plastic cutlery
- Single-use plastic plates
- Single-use plastic straws
- Single-use plastic beverage stirrers
- Single-use food containers made of expanded polystyrene
- Single-use cups and other beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids
- All oxo-degradable products
- Single-use plastic cotton bud sticks
- Single-use plastic balloon sticks.
Single-use plastics, don’t forget, include those that are fossil-based and bio-based, regardless of whether they are recyclable, biodegradable or compostable.
Vegware has got a bit flustered with number 2 because Scotland wants to capture not only plates but “trays/platters and bowls” as well. Wales does too, while England has yet to consult – or say much at all on the matter.
This, Vegware reckons, could see all soup containers, food cartons, salad boxes, deli containers, sandwich platters and sushi trays banned. Basically, the food-to-go sector would be left with “bagasse clamshells and plates”, the company noted in its response to the government’s consultation.
And this couldn’t come at a worse time for foodservice – a sector that has been floored by covid-19 and which is becoming increasingly reliant on takeaway models. “Do you want people to be able to get a coffee and take it away, or eat their lunch at their desk or have a home delivery?” Vegware founder and chief executive Joe Frankel told The Herald. “The question is – should the Scottish Government legislate out all food on the move or for delivery?”
It was all very dramatic but this isn’t what Scotland’s government is planning.
Vegware, oddly, seems to understand that. “All we are trying to do is highlight the need for well-written definitions so as to avoid unintended far-reaching bans,” wrote communications director Lucy Frankel in an email. “In legislation, it’s the details which matter.”
This is true. Part of the problem is that the EU didn’t define “plate” in the directive. Research conducted for the Welsh Government by Resource Futures, a consultancy, suggested disposable plates covered soup bowls and salad bowls too.
Vegware didn’t kick up a fuss about that consultation but it has spotted that Scotland wants to do the same. But, again, this doesn’t mean that single-use plastic bowls for takeaway soups or containers for chow mein in front of the computer are the targets for this round of market restrictions.
So don’t panic. It’s also worth noting that, when launching the consultation in October, environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the introduction of the measures must be “carefully considered” in the context of covid-19 (the deposit return scheme has already been delayed due to the pandemic).
As a producer of compostable disposable packaging Vegware is of course within its rights to fight its corner in the face of tightening legislation around packaging.
But this move had little purpose other than to deliver some PR and panic some of the sector unnecessarily. Vegware’s beef isn’t that bowls have been included among the banned items, it’s that compostables have.