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Ban on single-use plastics: the deadline is fast approaching

At the start of 2023, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that a range of single-use plastics will be banned in England from October 2023.

A close up image of a pile of plastic forks in a number of different colours (green, white and yellow). A visual representation of the concept of single-use plastics, the topic of this piece.

Although we are still waiting for the legislation (the Environmental Protection (Plastic Plates etc. and Polystyrene Containers etc.) (England) Regulations 2023) to reach the statute book, there isn’t long left before the ban takes effect.

DEFRA states that the ban will include single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers. According to Government estimates, England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery, most of which are plastic, and 721 million single-use plates per year, but only 10% are recycled. From October 2023, consumers won’t be able to buy these products from any business – this includes retailers, takeaways, food vendors and the hospitality industry.

The ban will cover all bio-based, biodegradable and compostable single-use plastic. This is because compostable plastics must be sent to an industrial composter to decompose, of which, according to DEFRA, there is currently insufficient capacity for in England.

Businesses which commit an offence under the regulations will be liable to a summary conviction and a potentially unlimited fine.

The ban will not apply to plates, trays and bowls that are used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items. For example, this would include pre-packaged salad bowls and bowls filled with food at the counter of a takeaway. Instead, these items will be caught by the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme – see our article Packaging EPR: new guidance and regulations published (INSERT LINK).

The ban on single-use plastic was one of the targets set out in the Environment Act 2021. Government is also considering further measures around other commonly littered and problematic plastic items, including wet wipes, tobacco filters and sachets.


Ban on Single-Use Plastics: How we can help

The draft legislation banning single-use plastic is very detailed as to what is, and is not, covered. Please give any member of the Food & Drink team a call to make sure you understand how the legislation will affect your business.