Plastic bans announced for England

The UK government has announced that it will ban a range of single-use plastic items later this year. 

Plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers are all for the chop come October 1st, 2023.

The market restrictions also include compostable, biobased and biodegradable plastics. However, they will not apply to plates, trays and bowls used in shelf-ready pre-packaged foods.

“Plastic is a scourge which blights our streets and beautiful countryside and I am determined that we shift away from a single-use culture,” said environment minister Rebecca Pow.

The decision, which will be subject to parliamentary approval, follows a consultation that ran in late 2021 and early 2022.

NGOs welcomed the news but warned that the government continues to “nibble around the edges of a giant problem”, as Greenpeace put it. Many environmental groups want to see targets set to reduce plastic production and increase reusable packaging.

However, industry groups warned of the higher costs and carbon that will follow the market restrictions. The Foodservice Packaging Association said banning expanded polystyrene containers could result in the cost of fish and chips for a family of four rising by 50p. The association also said April 2024 would be a more realistic start date to “ensure stocks of banned items aren’t wasted”.

The British Takeaway Campaign told BBC News that businesses need more support to implement the changes.

Ministers are unlikely to budge however; they encouraged foodservice companies to consider reusable packaging rather than switching to single-use plastic alternatives.

In Scotland, which banned many of the items in June 2022, trials have been underway to assess the practicalities and costs of smaller businesses using reusable packaging. Results and guidance are expected soon.

Wales will also ban a range of plastic items starting in the autumn. The list is the same as Scotland’s with the addition of thin single-use plastic bags and oxo-degradable plastic. It’s not yet clear which items will be banned first.

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