Defra confirms details of single-use plastic ban

Over the weekend (14 January) Defra published a summary of responses and a Statutory Instrument which confirm detail on further single-use plastic bans. This follows a 12-week consultation conducted from November 2021 to February 2022. The bans will come into effect in October this year.

Plastic forks and spoonsThe ban – which only applies in England – includes plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and expanded and extruded polystyrene (EPS) food and beverage containers (including cups). In December, Defra confirmed that other Devolved Administrations are ‘considering bringing forward similar regulations’.

It also confirms that the ban will include items made from plastic that is bio-based, biodegradable or compostable.

According to the consultation response, 95 per cent of non-governmental organisations and members of the public were in favour of all bans. Businesses gave more mixed feedback, with 20 per cent of businesses indicating opposition to all bans.

The consultation received 53,329 responses, with the results being delayed due to changes in Government. Defra invites comments on the regulations to be sent to [email protected] by 30 January.

Since 2020, there have been bans in place on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

In December a Defra spokesperson told Resource: “We are determined to go further and faster to reduce, reuse, and recycle more of our resources in order to transform our waste industry and deliver on our commitments in the ambitious 25-Year Environment Plan.”

In a Ministerial Foreword published alongside the summary of responses, Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “This is a step towards moving away from a take, make, throw model and will push the UK towards a circular economy.”

Steve Hynd, Policy Manager for City to Sea, the environmental group behind the campaign for the ban commented: "This is both a huge and welcome step forward while also simultaneously being nowhere near enough to tackle the plastic crisis we face.

“Every country inside the European Union already banned these items by at least July 2021. So we are really just playing catch up with some minimum standards. Many of our neighbouring countries have gone further and faster. France, for example, has banned all single-use from being served in restaurants and bars. Wales is including single-use plastic bags in its ban. If we were really world leaders we would have implemented this ban years ago and it would sit as part of a much wider plan to reduce single-use plastics as a whole."

He continued, "Despite our understandable concerns, banning these items will have a positive impact. These are some of the most polluting single-use plastic items most commonly found in our rivers, oceans, and on our beaches. Removing them from our markets is a big and positive step forward. But it is just a step when we have a marathon ahead of us to fully tackle the plastic crisis." 

Alongside the consultation, Defra called for evidence on other common sources of plastic pollution including wet wipes, tobacco filters, sachets, cigarette filters and single-use cups. The outcome was expected alongside the consultation response but is yet to be published.

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Plant, told Resource: “The ban Defra has announced this week is welcome, but it is just far too timid. Of course, those other items should have been banned at the same time, and the question is "what are ministers waiting for?'"

“It is perfectly obvious that throwaway sachets are not just causing plastic pollution but also perpetuating the climate crisis. Plastic is a fossil fuel product – oil dressed up as packaging. The slow ratchet of very limited plastic bans coming out annually from the Government looks very much like just fiddling while more fossil fuels burn.

“We humans are supposed to be the stewards of the earth, but we are more like vandals. Every plastic sachet produced and thrown away is one more scratch, one more chip away at our fragile planet.

“And what is frustrating is that by instituting a ban now, the Government could catalyse a whole market of natural materials to replace plastic. There is an alternative – we just have to choose it.”

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