Government looks closely at EPS ban

DEFRA has invited tenders for a contract to assess "the economic, environmental and social impacts” of a ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) used for food and drink.

Last week, the government announced that plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds would be banned from April next year.

The new tender suggests that attention has already turned to other single-use plastics. EPS has always been on the red list: Marcus Gover, CEO at WRAP – and a man environment secretary Michael Gove has relied on heavily for advice this past few months – said last year that there isn’t a good market for recycled polystyrene and so “we have to be questioning whether we should be using [it]”.

Under the EU’s Single-Use Plastics Directive, approved by the Council of the EU last week, food and drink containers made from EPS are among the most commonly littered plastics that will be banned from 2021. The UK will more than likely have to implement the Directive.

However, the Times reported that ministers here want to implement the EPS ban ahead of the EU deadline – as it has done with straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

The Foodservice Packaging Association has maintained that such a ban is “unfair”, with EPS “singled out” as the only material on the banned list – all the others are products.

“We are concerned that this Directive has been rushed through ahead of the EU elections in May and has not been properly considered or consulted upon,” said FPA executive director Martin Kersh in March. He told the Times that the alternatives could be more expensive and less effective.

More detailed analysis of both the Single-Use Plastics Directive and the bans is available in Footprint’s regular Plastics Package column:

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