Single-use plastic plates, bowls, forks and knives, among several other items, will be banned from sale in the UK from October 2023, according to a statement released Saturday by Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey.
Under the new rules, consumers will no longer be able to buy several single-use plastic items from businesses including retailers, takeaways, food vendors and the hospitality industry. Items included in the ban include plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers.
According to estimates cited by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery and more than 720 million single-use plates are used in England annually, and only 10% of these are recycled.
The ban is the latest in a series of moves by the UK government to address plastic waste, following the launch in 2018 of its “the 25 Year Environment Plan,” which included a goal to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. Since establishing the plan, the UK has introduced a ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, restricted the supply of single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds, and implemented a carrier bag charge that has resulted in a 97% reduction in their use in major supermarkets.
The new rules follow the launch of a consultation in November 2021 on proposals to ban the sale of the items. The consultation drew more than 53,000 responses, with 95% of public and NGO responses in favor of the ban, and more varied responses from businesses, with 20% opposed to all bans, and some highlighting other challenges and unintended consequences from the proposals.
For example, while around half of manufacturers felt confident that they could meet a proposed April 2023 deadline to implement the ban, many businesses responded that they would not have enough time to ensure a consistent supply of alternatives without significant price increases. To allow businesses more time to prepare for the new rules, the ban will be introduced in October.
According to the new rules, the ban will not apply to plates, trays, and bowls that are used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items, including in eat-in and takeaway settings, although businesses are being encouraged to reduce the use of these items and move to reusable alternatives. The government is also planning to address these items through a Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme, which will provide incentives to producers to use packaging that can be recycled and to meet higher recycling targets.
“We all know the absolutely devastating impacts that plastic can have on our environment and wildlife. We have listened to the public and these new single-use plastics bans will continue our vital work to protect the environment for future generations.”