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England to Expand Ban of Single-Use Plastic Items

Stacks of styrofoam containers

Single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, and cutlery; plastic balloon sticks; and certain types of polystyrene cups and food and drink containers will be banned in England, effective October 2023, subject to Parliamentary approval. The bans will also cover items made from plastic that are bio-based, biodegradable, or compostable. The announcement was made by UK Environment Secretary Therese Coffey. (The Draft regulations, the Environmental Protection (Plastic Plates etc. and Polystyrene Containers etc.) (England) Regulations 2023, can be accessed here.) Plates, trays, and bowls that are used as packaging for takeout (i.e., pre-packaged salad bowls and bowls filled with food at the counter of a takeaway) and pre-packaged food items will be exempted, as they will be covered by the new extended producer responsibility legislation that will come into force in 2024. In 2020, the UK government banned single-use plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds in England.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) conducted a consultation on a proposal for a ban between November 20, 2021, and February 12, 2022. Over 95% of respondents to the consultation were in favor of the ban. (A summary of responses and government response can be found on DEFRA’s website.)

Single-use plastics bans were previously announced for Wales (see more details here) and Scotland. The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Bill was passed on December 6, 2022 (more information about the passage of that bill can be found here). For Scotland, other than the Environmental Protection (Cotton Buds) (Scotland) Regulations 2019, which banned the supply and manufacture of plastic stemmed cotton buds, a new Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 came into force on June 1, 2022, making it an offence to manufacture and/or supply specified single use plastic products. (This act is Subject to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (the Internal Market Act).)