England plans ban on single-use plastic plates, cutlery

Under proposals in a 12-week public consultation, businesses and consumers will need to move towards more sustainable alternatives.
For representational purposes (Photo | AFP)
For representational purposes (Photo | AFP)

LONDON: Single-use cutlery and plates could be banned in England as part of a public consultation and call for evidence launched to tackle so-called problematic plastics on Saturday.

Throwaway plastic plates, cutlery, expanded and extruded polystyrene cups and food and beverage containers could all be phased out in the latest UK government bid to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said.

Under proposals in a 12-week public consultation, businesses and consumers will need to move towards more sustainable alternatives.

"Plastic damages our environment and destroys wildlife. This government has waged war on unnecessary, wasteful plastics - banning the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, while our carrier bag charge has cut consumption by 95% in the main supermarkets," said UK Environment Secretary George Eustice.

"But it's time we left our throwaway culture behind once and for all. Through our world-leading Environment Act, we will reduce waste and make better use of our resources, helping us to build back greener and leave the environment in a better state than we found it. These new plans represent the next major step in eradicating the use of problematic plastics that pollute our natural world," he said.

DEFRA said it is going further by also launching a separate call for evidence to address other sources of plastic pollution.

This will ask stakeholders for views on tackling commonly littered plastics such as wet wipes, tobacco filters, sachets and other single-use cups.

Future policy measures that could be explored include banning plastic in these items, and mandatory labelling on packaging to help consumers dispose of these items correctly.

The British government will also examine how to put the responsibility at manufacturers' doors to make sure they are doing everything they can to tackle single-use plastics, including litter from cigarette butts.

According to official data, the UK uses 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups per year, while plastic sachets are often not recycled due to their small size, which makes it hard to segregate and clean them.

The government said it will consider how a move to sustainable alternatives can be achieved without unfairly impacting on consumers.

"Many companies are already taking action to cut this avoidable waste, with many shops already stocking alternatives to conventional plastic wipes, and today's move will urge more to do the same," DEFRA said.

The consultation comes a week after the passage of the UK Environment Act, which will enable tougher action on single-use plastics in England.

The act includes powers to place charges on single-use items, and the call to evidence will explore whether such a charge could be placed on single use cups or sachets to encourage a shift away from throwaway culture.

The UK government said it will also introduce a world-leading plastic packaging tax from April 2022, set at GBP 200 per tonne, on plastic packaging which doesn't meet a minimum threshold of at least 30 per cent recycled content.

"This will encourage greater use of recycled plastic, leading to increased levels of recycling and plastic waste collection, helping to tackle the problem of plastic waste and protect our environment," DEFRA said.

"Plastic pollution is a global issue and we are committed to working with international partners to tackle it. That's why the UK is co-sponsoring an ambitious resolution proposed by Peru and Rwanda to start negotiations for a new legally binding global agreement to tackle plastic pollution in the way the Paris Agreement has done for climate change and the Montreal protocol has done for ozone depletion," it added.

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