England is taking its single-use plastic ban even further by restricting the sale of plastic cutlery, plates, bowls, trays, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers (via engaged). According to an announcement on the UK government’s website, the new ban will take effect in October this year.
Once the ban goes into effect, people will no longer be able to buy or get these single-use plastics from businesses, including retailers, restaurants, food vendors and other venues.
However, the ban will not affect the plastic plates, trays or bowls that come with pre-packaged food items, as they are already included in the country’s Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme. This initiative encourages companies to use recyclable packaging and to “achieve higher recycling targets”.
The upcoming ban expands on the country’s existing rules around plastic products. In 2018, England introduced a ban on microbeads, the small pieces of plastic added to personal care products that can enter waterways and harm marine life. It later restricted the availability of single-use plastic straws, stir sticks and cotton swabs in 2020, and last year introduced a tax on imported plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30 percent recycled content. The country also charges for the use of plastic bags.
“By introducing a ban later this year, we are redoubled our commitment to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste,” said Rebecca Pow, England’s environment minister, in a statement. England’s ban follows Scotland and Wales’ decision to restrict the sale of plastic cutlery and plates last year, and comes after the European Union did the same in 2021.
However, some critics argue that tackling the rampant plastic pollution that is ravaging the planet is still not enough. As a journalist and former Guardian environmental editor, John Vidal, points out that the UK ban is “too limited in its scope” as it does not cover “single-use plastic water bottles, makes no mention of plastic bags and does not even attempt to burn plastic waste in incinerators .” Meanwhile, Meg Randles, a political campaigner at Greenpeace UK, welcomes the changebut says the move is “long overdue” and “still a drop in the ocean compared to the action needed to stem the plastic tide.”
In addition to a comprehensive ban on single-use plastics, there are also “carefully considered” restrictions on wet wipes, tobacco filters and sachets in the country. It may also require companies to label plastic products to inform customers how to properly dispose of them, and is developing a bottle return program.