Single-use plastic plates, cutlery, expanded and extruded polystyrene cups and food and beverage containers could all be phased out, in the latest Government bid to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. According to estimates, England uses 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of single-use cutlery — most of which are plastic — per year, but only 10% are recycled upon disposal. Under proposals in a 12-week public consultation, businesses and consumers will need to move towards more sustainable alternatives.
The Government is 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. The Government will also examine how manufacturers can make sure they do everything possible to tackle single-use plastics, including litter.
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 will consider how a move to sustainable alternatives can be achieved without unfairly impacting on consumers.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said commented “There is growing recognition of the damage that plastics cause to our environment and marine life in particular. We want to reduce the use of plastics in packaging and ban its use in items linked to littering”.
The consultation comes a week after the passage of the 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 is a global leader in combatting plastic waste and has already taken major steps to tackle plastic pollution, banning microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, and restricting the supply of single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. Following the huge success of the 5p charge on single-use carrier bags, which cut consumption in the main supermarkets by 95% since 2015, the minimum charge was increased to 10p and extended it to all retailers.
Industry is addressing plastic waste through the UK Plastics Pact, a collaboration between businesses from across the entire plastics value chain, supported by the government and coordinated by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
Marcus Gover, CEO WRAP, said “We welcome the consultation to expand the range of single-use plastic items to be banned in England. Eliminating problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic is essential if we are to turn the tide on plastic pollution and keep plastic out of the environment. …The UK Plastics Pact set an ambitious target to take action in this important area and its members have already eliminated problematic plastic by more than 40%. We now need regulation to follow and ensure that all businesses take steps to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic”.
Through the Environment Act, the Government is bringing in a wide range of further measures to tackle plastic pollution and litter, including:
Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.
The Extended Producer Responsibility.
Plans Consistent Recycling Collections for every household and business in England.
A plastic packaging tax is also planned from April 2022, set at £200 per tonne, on plastic packaging which doesn’t meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content.
For more information visit www.gov.uk