Defra announces delay in plastics ban

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On 15 April 2020, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England will be delayed by six months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A ban on the disposable plastic items, with exemptions allowing the use of plastic straws and plastic-stemmed cotton buds for those who need them for medical reasons or a disability, was due to start from the end of April 2020 after a consultation revealed public support for the move. A Defra spokesperson said: “Given the huge challenges posed to businesses by coronavirus, we have confirmed we will delay the introduction of our ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds until October 2020. We remain absolutely committed to turning the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the threat they pose to our natural environment. This ban is yet another measure to clamp down on unnecessary plastic so we can better protect our precious wildlife and leave our environment in a better state for future generations.

The UK’s delay comes as the European Commission refused to readjust and relax bans on single-use items across the European Union, following pressure from industry groups. The EC’s single-use plastic directive was adopted in June 2019 and introduced bans on a selected number of throw-away items such as cutlery, beverage cups, balloon sticks, straws and cotton bud sticks. However, some industry groups had called for some aspects of the ban to be lifted because of health and hygiene concerns raised during the COVID-19 outbreak.

WM comment

Whilst many food businesses may be grateful of this temporary reprieve, those that trade in Europe should have already adjusted to removing single-use plastics from their products.