Proposal to ban single-use plastic set out by Environment Minister

Polluting plastics which harm landscapes and wildlife could be banned in England, Environment Secretary George Eustice set out today (November 20).

Single-use plastic plates, cutlery, expanded and extruded polystyrene cups and food and beverage containers could all be phased out, in the latest Government bid to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste.

According to estimates, England uses 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of single-use cutlery — most of which are plastic — per year, but only 10% are recycled upon disposal.

Under proposals in a 12-week public consultation, businesses and consumers will need to move towards more sustainable alternatives.

Future policy plans

The government is also launching a separate call for evidence to address other sources of plastic pollution.

This will ask stakeholders for views on tackling commonly littered plastics such as wet wipes, tobacco filters, sachets and other single-use cups.

Future policy measures that could be explored include banning plastic in these items, and mandatory labelling on packaging to help consumers dispose of these items correctly.

The UK uses 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups per year, while plastic sachets are often not recycled due to their small size, which makes it hard to segregate and clean them.

Many companies are already taking action to cut this avoidable waste, with many shops already stocking alternatives to conventional plastic wipes, and today’s move will urge more to do the same.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

“There is growing recognition of the damage that plastics cause to our environment and marine life in particular.

“We want to reduce the use of plastics in packaging and ban its use in items linked to littering.

We have already banned plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds and now plan to extend the ban to cutlery and balloon sticks where alternative materials, like wood can be used.

The consultation comes a week after the passage of the Environment Act which will enable tougher action on single-use plastics in England.

The Act includes powers to place charges on single-use items, and the call to evidence will explore whether such a charge could be placed on single use cups or sachets to encourage a shift away from throwaway culture.