About 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of cutlery, mostly plastic, are used annually in the UK, but only 10% are recycled. The UK also uses 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups/year, with plastic sachets often not recycled due to their small size, which makes it hard to segregate and clean them. So, at last, the government is looking to ban these polluting plastics which we know all too well harm our landscapes and wildlife. On November 20th the government launched a 12-week consultation that could see a ban in England on single-use plastic plates, cutlery, expanded and extruded polystyrene cups
and food and beverage containers. Scotland has already announced a ban from June 2022 on the use of plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and food containers made from expanded polystyrene.
A plastic item used for a few minutes can persist in the environment for hundreds of years and endanger wildlife and habitats. When broken down into microplastics, it reaches our soils, waterways, ocean and the food chains within them. Around the world, more than one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die every year from eating or getting tangled in plastic waste. Horrid thought, an unjustifiable way to carry on.
The Government is going to launch 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 Government will also examine how manufacturers become a key part of the solution by doing everything they can to tackle single-use plastics, including litter from cigarette butts. The Government will consider how a move to sustainable alternatives can be achieved without unfairly impacting on consumers.
There will be some who will be glad to see this move by the government but there are also some who feel this ‘product by product’ approach is too slow. Last year we saw the ban in England on plastic straws and some believe we have the momentum to move more radically and quickly than this drip, drip, drip approach. There are some good eco-friendly portable travel cutlery sets out there, make the investment. In the meantime, please take a look at the consultation on the DEFRA website and the online survey. The consultation closes on 12th February 2022.
By Kim Price