In October 2020 the Government in England introduced measures to prevent the supply and sale of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds, and drinks stirrers except in very specific circumstances mostly care settings, medical use and some catering uses. For many companies this resulted in a switch to products made of paper or wood but for some people this was the inspiration required to look at reusable alternatives such a washable cotton buds, and reusable straws.
This year the Government looks to go one step further by banning the sale or supply of more single-use plastic items, with these bans designed to act as steppingstones to shift the country away from single-use items and a linear economy to a more sustainable approach. Below we’ve broken the changes down to help you understand what they mean and what you can do.
What is being banned?
- Single-use plastic plates, bowls and trays
- Single-use plastic cutlery
- Single-use plastic balloon sticks
- Single-use polystyrene food and drink containers
What can I do to prepare?
Given the coming changes, now might be a good time to start your switch to reusable alternatives so you have a few weeks to get used to the changes.
Consider dusting off or investing in a refillable coffee cup if you don’t regularly use one already. Not only can they dramatically cut waste from your weekly brew on the way to a meeting or taking the kids to the park but they will keep your drink hotter for longer and many places will offer a small discount for bringing your own.
If you regularly buy meals on the go, whether it is a salad or fish and chips, consider carrying a set of cutlery with you. You can buy cutlery sets that often include a straw and come in a fancy pouch to keep them all together or you can just stick a set of cutlery from home in a pocket of your work bag or in your desk draw so you never have to battle with a wooden spork or work out how to craft the lid of your yoghurt into a spoon.
Why is it being banned?
The ban is part of the Government’s bid to eliminate avoidable plastic waste to help reduce plastic pollution that can harm wildlife and landscapes. These latest materials will join measures already taken including the introduction in 2015 and later (2021) increasing of the single-use carrier bag charge, the 2018 ban on the sale of products containing plastic microbeads and 2020 restrictions on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.
Are there any exemptions?
Yes, this round of restrictions contains some significant exemptions which could cause confusion to consumers about the lengths and effectiveness of the ban. One of the most notable exemptions are that single-use plastic plates, bowls and trays will still be permitted where these are pre-filled or filled at the point of sale, this will include items like ready meals or pre-packed salads, a plate filled at a takeaway, or a tray used to deliver food. The other significant exception is that single-use polystyrene food and drink containers will still be permitted where the item requires further preparation such as adding water, microwaving or toasting.