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UK moves to ban Single-use plastic items from food service sector


The UK Government has just announced that single-use items such as plastic cutlery, plates and trays are to be banned in England in a bid to reduce pollution. England uses over a billion single use plates each year along with over 4bn plastic cutlery items. The ban follows similar bans in Scotland and Wales last year. The news comes following consultations by the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) during 2021 and 2022. Significant steps have already been taken to kerb the reliance on single use and throw away plastics including the introduction of a tax on plastic packaging last year.

The association of plastic cutlery and plates with these items with take-away foods often means, poor collection and recycling rates are achieved. They constitute some of the worst
offending plastic items found in marine litter although some environmental organisations claim that it is not comprehensive, covering only food service.

This new ban applies specifically to plastic packaging of food and drinks from restaurants and cafes, not in supermarkets and stores. The government plans to address those in a separate scheme that would have manufacturers cover disposal costs starting in 2024. Some advocate that the move to curb our reliance on single use plastics is insufficient, with no timebound targets for elimination, lack of progress on reuse models such as deposit return schemes, improvements in recycle rates, circularity and no farm targets for inclusion of recycled content or clarity on the methods for measuring it. However, for most users of plastic, both at commercial and public levels, there is a lack of awareness, knowledge and access to plastic information to support improvement.

At RPM, we provide a starting point for organisations and society to begin establishing what their plastic use and waste looks
like and what options are available.