England may end single-use of plastic plates, cups, and cutlery

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Single-use plastic items commonly used for food and drink consumption such as plates, cutlery, and polystyrene cups could soon be banned in England. The government has launched a 12-week public consultation in line with ongoing efforts to tackle the harmful effects of plastic waste on the environment.

Reports have cited that England’s consumers use about 1.1 billion of one-time use plates and 4.25 billion cutlery items, with only about 10 per cent being recycled upon disposal. 

Environment minister George Eustice said: “There is growing recognition of the damage that plastics cause to our environment and marine life in particular. We want to reduce the use of plastics in packaging and ban its use in items linked to littering.”

He noted that banning other plastic items such as straws, stirrers, and cotton buds have already been enforced in England in 2020. “It’s time we left our throwaway culture behind once and for all,” he commented.

The government could use the Environment Act to introduce charges on use of single use items, as well as possible other measures such as mandatory labelling on packaging to educate consumers on proper disposal.

“Through our world-leading Environment Act, we will reduce waste and make better use of our resources, helping us to build back greener and leave the environment in a better state than we found it,” said Eustice.

Environmentalists such as Marcus Gover, the chief executive of Wrap, a sustainable resource use organization, have welcomed the move, pointing however, on the importance of ensuring that regulations are in place. “The UK Plastics Pact set an ambitious target to take action in this important area and its members have already eliminated problematic plastic by more than 40%. We now need regulation to follow and ensure that all businesses take steps to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic,” he added. 

Other items which cause waste pollution such as wet wipes, tobacco filters and sachets will also be examined separately.