English government confirm single-use plastic ban

23rd January 2023

Charlotte Davies

DEFRA are continuing to take steps towards adopting principles of the circular economy and minimising environmental plastic pollution, confirming further bans on single-use plastic items. This will take affect from October 2023, under The Environmental Protection (Plastic plates etc. and polystyrene containers etc.) (England) Regulations 2023.

The Resource and Waste Strategy – 25 Year Environment Plan, introduced by the Government in 2018, sets out to ‘eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042’. The strategy aims to minimise single use plastic items, moving away from the take, make, throw model of the current linear economy. The intention is to help embrace the circular economy, while tackling plastic pollution through targeting those widely polluted items.

Bans have become part of the strategic approach, as in 2018 microbeads (in rinse-off personal care products) and in 2020 single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds were banned. To continue to tackle environmental pollution and unnecessary generation of waste the English government held a consultation from November 2021 to February 2022 on commonly littered plastic items with a focus on problematic food and beverage containers. On 14 January, DEFRA published a summary of the response and draft statutory instruments confirming the ban of the supply of the following single-use items in England:

  • plastic plates
  • plastic cutlery
  • plastic balloon sticks
  • expanded and extruded polystyrene* food containers
  • expanded and extruded polystyrene* beverage containers, including cups

*Only Polystyrene that has been through a foaming process will be considered in the scope of this ban

The consultation response confirms the ban will be introduced from October 2023, allowing businesses time to prepare rather than wait for legislation to be passed. For many businesses it is likely preparation is already underway due to similar bans elsewhere such as Scotland, Wales and Europe.

Key decisions

Where food and drinks containers are referenced, it only relates to those used to contain food or drink that is ready to be consumed without further preparation e.g., takeaways. It is not relating to circumstances where single use trays, plates, bowls may be used as packaging for raw meat or shelf-ready pre-packaged items. This is primarily to avoid duplication or confusion with proposed extended producer responsibility scheme, where these items would be liable under packaging regulations.

The summary of the response determines the ban will also include items made from plastic that are bio-based, biodegradable or compostable, acknowledging ‘they are still plastic’. DEFRA drew concern to their single use nature, highlighting there is limited evidence to support breakdown in real world environments. Other issues linking to the misconception of composability and the insufficient capacity in England to process industrial compostable waste were also reasons provided for the inclusion within the ban.

It was also confirmed there are no exemptions to the ban, despite the consideration of medical requirements and physical or mental disabilities and associated requirements.

Where are the rest of the UK in comparison?

Please see below our updated single-use plastic ban comparison table for the UK devolved nations & EU countries.

Plastic item

Scotland

England

Wales

Northern Ireland

European Union (EU)

Drink stirrers

Ban on manufacture and supply from 1 June 2022

Ban on supply from October 2020

Ban on supply being introduced (no date set)

No formal proposals

Existing restriction on supply in Member States (from July 2021)

Cotton buds

Ban on manufacture and supply from October 2019

Ban on supply from October 2020

Ban on supply being introduced (no date set)

No formal proposals

Existing restriction on supply in Member States (from July 2021)

Drinking straws

Ban on supply from 1 June 2022

Ban on supply from October 2020

Ban on supply being introduced (no date set)

No formal proposals

Existing restriction on supply in Member States (from July 2021)

Single-use plates

Ban on manufacture and supply from 1 June 2022

Proposed ban on supply from October 2023

Ban on supply being introduced (no date set)

No formal proposals

Existing restriction on supply in Member States (from July 2021)

Single-use cutlery

Ban on manufacture and supply from 1 June 2022

Proposed ban on supply from October 2023

Ban on supply being introduced (no date set)

No formal proposals

Existing restriction on supply in Member States (from July 2021)

Balloon sticks

Ban on supply from 1 June 2022

Proposed ban on supply from October 2023

Ban on supply being introduced (no date set)

No formal proposals

Existing restriction on supply in Member States (from July 2021)

Expanded polystyrene containers (e.g. takeaway food and drink containers)

Ban on manufacture and supply from 1 June 2022

Proposed ban on supply from October 2023

Ban on supply being introduced (no date set) [includes foamed extruded polystyrene]

Proposals have been consulted on to either ban; introduce a levy on; or introduce voluntary initiatives

Existing restriction on supply in Member States (from July 2021)

Oxo-degradable products

No final decision taken; research ongoing

No final decision taken; research ongoing

Ban on supply being introduced (no date set)

No formal proposals

Existing restriction on supply in Member States (from July 2021)

What can we expect to see in the future?

The initial 12-week consultation also called for further evidence on the impact of highly polluting items like tobacco filters, wet wipes, single use-cups, and sachets. The decision is yet to be published but it’s predicted by A Plastic Planet another ban could be likely.

For further information or to understand specifically how this impacts your company, please get in touch at solutions@complydirect.com