England bans range of single use plastics to tackle ‘scourge of plastic pollution’

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

England has banned a range of single-use plastics. Image Source: Alistair Berg/Getty Images
England has banned a range of single-use plastics. Image Source: Alistair Berg/Getty Images

Related tags single-use plastic

Single-use plastics, including plates and cutlery, have been banned in England as part of the Government strategy to tackle what it calls “the scourge of plastic pollution.”

The new regulations, which were announced by Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Therese Coffey, in January 2023 and came into force this month (1 October), include the banning of single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers.

This impacts a range of businesses in England including retailers, takeaways, food vendors and the hospitality industry.

The ban will not apply to single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items as these will be included in the plans for an extended producer responsibility scheme, which is aimed at incentivising producers to use less packaging and meet higher recycling targets.

The move follows Scotland that introduced its own version of a ban on the use of single-use plastic items in June 2022 while Wales is implementing its own legislation on 30 October 2023.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said this ban would help protect the environment.

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​,” she said.

Business may face fines if they are found to be breaking the law with local authorities responsible for carrying out inspections and enforcement. In England it is a fixed penalty fine of £200, while in Scotland businesses can face a fine of up to £5,000.  In Wales its draft guidance said that businesses could face magistrates court and an unlimited fine.

The Government said that it engaged closely with industry, relevant trade bodies, local authorities and Trading Standards officers to prepare for the new rules.

However, the Local Government Association (LGA) was critical of the costs faced by councils of enforcing the ban.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Environment spokesperson for the LGA, added: “However, we are concerned that some local businesses and consumers are not aware of the impending ban on these materials and would encourage everyone to take a look at the materials impacted by it​.”

Meanwhile, Helen Bird, head of Material Systems at WRAP, said: “Single-use plastics dominate our world, and have even become embedded into the planet itself. This ban is an important moment in tackling the scourge of plastic pollution​.”

UKHospitality 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 venues already eliminating single-use cutlery from their operations, a crucial part of our ambitions to reach net zero​.”  

There are also plans for the implementation of a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, in 2025. Scotland’s implementation has been delayed until October 2025.


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