UK Bans Polluting Single-Use Plastics to Tackle Plastic Pollution

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Single Use Plastic
Single Use Plastic

UNITED KINGDOM: The UK government has taken a significant step in its mission to tackle plastic pollution and protect the environment by implementing bans and restrictions on a range of polluting single-use plastic items. From 1 October, no business in England, whether a retailer, takeaway, food vendor, or part of the hospitality industry, will be able to sell single-use plastic cutlery, balloon sticks, or polystyrene cups and food containers. The supply of single-use plastic plates, trays, and bowls has also been restricted.

Plastic pollution takes hundreds of years to break down and inflicts serious damage on our oceans, rivers, and land. It is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions, from its production and manufacture to the way it is disposed of. Research shows that people across England use 2.7 billion items of mostly plastic single-use cutlery and 721 million single-use plates every year, but only 10% of these are recycled.

The ban has been welcomed by businesses and the public alike, with overwhelming support demonstrated in responses to the consultation on the ban. The government has engaged closely with industry to support them in getting ready for the new requirements, including by giving them nine months from the publication of its response to the consultation on the ban to prepare and use up excess stock.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said, “This new ban is the next big step in our mission to crack down on harmful plastic waste. It will protect the environment and help to cut litter – stopping plastic pollution from dirtying our streets and threatening our wildlife.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

Since 2018, WRAP has worked with businesses under The UK Plastics Pact to eliminate all unnecessary and unrecyclable plastic packaging. Since then, 620 million single-use plastic items have been removed from shops. But we must go further, including on plastic packaging on most fruit and vegetables – and help save shoppers money by allowing people to buy what they need.

The single-use plastics ban is part of the government’s wider world-leading action to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution and eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. The government has already banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products in 2018 and restricted the supply of plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds in 2020. The government has also introduced the Plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022, a tax of more than PS200 per tonne on plastic packaging manufactured in or imported to the UK that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic.

The Government also introduced the Plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022, a tax of more than £200 per tonne on plastic packaging manufactured in or imported to the UK that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic.

Elsewhere, the Government’s hugely successful single-use carrier bag charge has cut sales in the main supermarkets by more than 98% since its introduction in 2015, taking billions of bags out of circulation.

But there is still more to do, which is why the Government is bringing in a deposit return scheme for drinks containers to recycle billions more plastic bottles and stop them from being landfilled, incinerated, or littered, alongside plans to simplify recycling collections for every household and business in England.

Through the actions of government, businesses, and individuals, the UK is transitioning away from unnecessary plastics and improving 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.

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