Updated: Feb 12
The UK Environment Secretary recently announced plans to implement a ban on single-use plastics, in an effort to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the oceans and harm marine life. The ban, which is set to come into effect in England in October 2023 targets all single use items such as plastic straws, cutlery, trays and plates and will also include a tax on takeaway containers and a crackdown on the excessive packaging found on products. Bringing the country into alignment with the devolved nations and delivering greater equivalence with European neighbours.
England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery, most of which are plastic, together with 721 million single-use plates per year, but only 10% of that volume is recycled. Enough to stretch around the world over eight and a half times (based on a 15cm piece of cutlery).
This move is a significant step forward in the fight against plastic pollution, as the UK is one of the largest contributors to ocean plastic in Europe. Single-use plastics, such as straws and cutlery, are often used for just a few minutes before being discarded and can take hundreds of years to degrade. As a result, these items end up in landfills, waterways, and ultimately, the ocean, where they can cause harm to marine animals and damage to the ecosystem.
The ban is also expected to have a positive impact on the economy, as it will create new jobs in the recycling and waste management sectors. Working in tandem with new Extended Producer Responsibility legislation. Encouraging companies to find more sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics, which could lead to innovation and growth in these industries.
However, the ban is not without its challenges. Plastic is a versatile and inexpensive material, and finding suitable alternatives for certain products may prove difficult. Additionally, the ban will require significant changes in consumer behavior, cleanup of latent single use plastics n the supply and waste chains, as well as the infrastructure to support these changes.
Overall, the UK's ban on single-use plastics is a bold and necessary move in the fight against plastic pollution. It is a step in the right direction, to protect our oceans and marine life. At the same time, it is important that government, industry, and consumers work together to ensure a smooth transition to more sustainable alternatives and help with infrastructure and behavior change.
The final text of the bill is likely to amend the Environment Act to introduce these new measures. There is general consensus that these are a good idea common with 95% of respondents to the original consultation backing the move. Some of our team also contributed our thoughts at the time, indicating general support for the motion to remove single use plastics comma with careful consideration given to to how existing single use plastics that remain in the system will be dealt with.
There is unanimous consensus amongst our team that this is significant progress! Whilst many consider this a threat to businesses and others that it doesn't go far enough, we will continue to offer solutions to the remaining challenges as legislation continues to catch up. Of course, we look forward to the release of The Bill which will us much more information and offer up wording for scrutiny. At this point we will know what exemptions the government is considering and will further comment on whether we agree that they go far enough and retain the spirit of last year's consultation.