Ban on businesses supplying single-use plastics comes into force in England

Bans and restrictions on supplying single-use plastics have come into force in England.

From Sunday, all businesses – including retailers, takeaways, food vendors and hospitality firms – can no longer sell certain plastic items.

The ban will apply to single-use plastic cutlery, balloon sticks and polystyrene cups and food containers.

Meanwhile, the use of single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls will be restricted.

The new regulations, announced by the Government in January, come as part of efforts to cut down on plastic pollution.

The Government estimates 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% are recycled.

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 dirtying our streets and threatening our wildlife.”

This week, councils have been been reminding businesses about the upcoming changes amid concerns many are unaware.

The Local Government Association said councils confronted by unprepared businesses could face heavier costs due to more pressure on their already overstretched trading standards teams, which will be required to enforce the ban locally.

But the Government said it has engaged closely with industry to support them in getting ready for the new requirements, including sourcing alternatives and using up excess stock.

It also said it has been working closely with trade bodies and local authorities to help trading standards officers prepare for the new rules.

Plastic cutlery
The ban covers single-use plastic cutlery, balloon sticks and polystyrene cups and containers (Alamy/PA)

Businesses will be able to supply single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls if they are used as packaging in shelf-ready, pre-packaged food items.

These items will instead be part of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme, which will ensure manufacturers pay the cost of recycling their packaging and is expected to come into effect in 2025.

It comes as part of the Government’s push to cut down on plastic packaging after introducing a plastic packaging tax in April 2022 and introducing single-use carrier bag charges in 2015.

Besides the EPR, which has been delayed twice, ministers also plan to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and simplify recycling collections for households and businesses in England.

The Government said responses seen from the public and during the consultation on the ban demonstrated overwhelming support for the new measures, with 95% in favour of all prohibitions.

While many campaign groups and businesses have welcomed the ban, some have urged the Government to do more to tackle the issue.

A YouGov poll, commissioned by Just Eat, found that 70% of UK adults think the Government should be taking further action to tackle plastic use, with 73% supporting extending the ban to single-use plastic takeaway boxes.

Discarded cup
Ministers said the new rules will tackle littering and help improve wildlife habitats (Alamy/PA)

Just Eat is calling on the Government to support the sustainable packaging sector in order to make these items more widely available while driving down costs for businesses and consumers.

Robin Clark, director of partnerships and sustainability at Just Eat, said: “If we are to make this work, action is required not just from the public but wider industry and policymakers.

“We’re calling on the Government to prioritise the environment and commit to taking further action to reduce plastic waste.”

Meanwhile, City To Sea – the organisation which campaigned for the changes, securing 118,000 signatures and more than 50,000 responses to the Government consultation – welcomed the ban but called it “a drop in a very polluted ocean”.

Policy manager Steve Hynd said: “Despite the ban taking some of the worst single-use plastics off the menu, there is still a gluttony of polluting plastics that need to be dealt with.

“Government needs to set ambitious and legally binding reduction-and-reuse targets to start to address this excess.

“Instead, we’ve seen important environmental legislation being watered down and weakened in recent weeks.

“Flagship policies like extended producer responsibility, deposit return schemes and recycling reforms – all lacking ambition and have now been delayed beyond the next election.

“Without these measures in places, the ban will see the back of a few polluting items but will do little to stem the much bigger tide of plastics polluting our waterways.”