Britain to Ban Some Single-Use Plastics

The move follows similar bans in Scotland and Wales, and some say the new regulation does not reach far enough.

January 10, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The British government confirmed that it will enact a ban on certain single-use plastic items, mainly on takeaway food and drinks, reports BBC. The ban includes plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks and certain kinds of polystyrene cups and food containers.

The government released data that shows England uses 1.1 billion single-use plates and more than four billion pieces of plastic cutlery each year. Each person in England uses 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 pieces of plastic cutlery yearly, according to the country’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The move is to help protect future generations, according to England’s Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey.

"I am determined to drive forward action to tackle this issue head on. We've already taken major steps in recent years, but we know there is more to do, and we have again listened to the public's calls," she told BBC. "This new ban will have a huge impact to stop the pollution of billions of pieces of plastics and help to protect the natural environment for future generations."

Proponents of the ban welcomed the move but say further action is needed.

"We're dealing with a plastic flood, and this is like reaching for a mop instead of turning off the tap," Megan Randles, political campaigner for Greenpeace U.K., told BBC.

She asked the government to deliver a "meaningful" strategy on how to reduce plastic use, which would also include stringent targets and "a proper reuse and refill scheme."

The British government did not specify when the ban will take effect. Scotland has imposed a similar ban on single-use plastic, and Wales approved a single-use plastics ban that will take effect later this year.

England has already banned single-use plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. This new ban does not cover items found in supermarkets or shops, but the government said it would address those in other ways.

Early last year, Japanese convenience-store retailer FamilyMart removed plastic forks and sporks from its convenience stores in Japan ahead of a Japanese ordinance that requires certain businesses to reduce the use of disposable plastic items. The ordinance says that companies that used more than five tons of disposable plastic items are subject to the measure.

In the U.S., several states and local governments have enacted bans on plastic bags, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Other states and localities charge consumers a fee if they choose to use a plastic bag at a retailer.

Read more about c-store’s packaging sustainability efforts in the NACS Magazine article “Package Deal.”