As of October 2023, new law has been enforced banning more single use plastic items (hurrah!!)
First announced in January this year, it’s part of a goal to eliminate all “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042. The government already has world-leading bans and taxes on some forms of plastic, and the new rules will protect the environment and help to cut litter - stopping plastic pollution filling our streets, landfill and threatening our wildlife.
Plastic pollution takes hundreds of years to break down and inflicts serious damage on our ocean, rivers and land. It is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions, from its production and manufacture to the way it is disposed of.
What has already been brought into place?
There have been several laws and regulations in the United Kingdom aimed at addressing the issue of plastic waste. Some of the key laws and regulations related to plastic waste in the UK include:
- Plastic Bag Charge: This has taken billions of bags out of circulation.
- Microbeads Ban: These tiny plastic particles were found in products like exfoliating scrubs and toothpaste.
- Plastic Waste Exports: Controlling the export of plastic waste to other countries, aiming to prevent the illegal dumping of plastic waste in developing countries.
- Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): Making producers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products, including recycling and disposal.
- Plastics Tax: Taxes on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content. Encouraging the use of more environmentally friendly materials.
- Bans on Single-Use Plastics: Restrictions on single-use plastics, such as plastic straws and stirrers.
What is included in England’s new single-use plastic ban?
So what is included in the ban? No business – whether retailer, takeaway, food vendor or part of the hospitality industry – will now be able to sell single-use plastic cutlery, balloon sticks nor polystyrene cups and food containers in England. The supply of single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls has also been restricted. Businesses could face fines and criminal charges if they don’t comply with the new rules. The government says it’s planning to ban all plastic packaging later down the line but an exact date hasn’t yet been set…
England uses an estimated 2.7 billion pieces of mostly plastic single-use cutlery and 721 million single-use plates every year. That’s around 37 pieces of cutlery and 18 plates per person. Just 10 per cent of these items are recycled according to government estimates and the rest can take hundreds of years to degrade in landfills.
If 2.7 billion pieces of cutlery were lined up, they would go round the world more than eight-and-a-half times.
UK Hospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said:
“Hospitality businesses have made huge strides in reducing their plastic usage and that progress has resulted in the vast majority of event venues already eliminating single-use cutlery from their operations, a crucial part of our ambitions to reach net zero. We’ve been pleased to work with the Government to ensure these new bans and restrictions are also practical for hospitality businesses, all while working towards the nation’s sustainability goals”
Should you get ahead of the game? How to prepare your business for more bans on single use items…
- Find alternatives now! Make sure you’re set up to start using alternatives for the current bans and bans that may come into force in the future. Think about things like single use plastic cups and how you will operate your bar and drinks service.
- Understand the cost implications: if your new, environmentally friendly products cost you more, you may need to review the prices your customers pay. Investing in reusable cups can be a cost-effective choice for event organisers and venue managers because they will save on the expenses associated with purchasing large quantities of single-use items for every single event.
- Communicate with your customers: you might want to let your customers know about the change, even if you haven’t changed your prices or removed products yet.
- Get some advice! Our team are always more than happy to speak to you about options when it comes to single use products and the best environmentally friendly alternatives.
The new ban on single use plastic items is a positive step towards a greener future for our planet but there is still more to do. Soon, the Government will be introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers to recycle billions more plastic bottles and stop them being landfilled, incinerated or littered, alongside plans to simplify recycling collections for every household and business in England.
Together, we must continue to transition away from unnecessary plastics and improve sustainability across the public and private sectors. This shift from single-use items is vital as the Government continues its work to protect the environment for future generations.