Published 1 year ago.
About a 4 minute read.
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Starting in October, the country will phase out a variety of single-use plastic products; but most think it does not go far enough to tackle pollution and waste.
As England gets set to implement a partial single-use plastic ban later this
year, it aims to continue momentum spurred by prior bans on plastic microbeads
in 2018; and restrictions on single-use straws and stirrers, and a tax on
certain kinds of imported plastic packaging introduced in 2020.
— to take effect in October 2023 — will include "single-use plastic plates,
trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks and certain types of polystyrene cups and
food containers," according to the announcement.
While at first glance this may seem like prudent progress, Britta
Baechler — the Ocean Conservancy’s
associate director of ocean plastics science and research — notes that
Scotland, Wales and the European Union have already implemented
similar bans, framing the English government as laggards in this particular
“We’re excited (about the ban),” she told Sustainable Brands®, “but we
can’t rely solely on them. These types of bans are creating momentum and help
shift the way we think about plastic — banning these items has the immediate
effect of reducing plastic production and cleaning up recycling systems — but
it’s just one tool in the toolkit.”
“To be honest, the latest ban announcement came a bit out of nowhere,” Sara
Tomkins, marketing & CSR director at
Co-op Live — set to be the UK’s
largest music-only event venue — told SB. “It was talked about some time back
but then went quiet; so, it was a welcome surprise announcement in January.”
While single-use plastics are already banned at the arena, Tompkins says she’s
excited for the potential of England’s new laws in changing what suppliers
provide in the live entertainment space.
In mid-2022, both
instituted their own single-use plastic bans. A key difference with both of
these bans is that they include certain kinds of common foam carry-out
containers, with the Welsh ban including thin plastic bags.
As it stands, England’s new ban does not include single-use plastics in
as those items are being considered under another government policy. Most
notably, the ban also doesn’t cover several of the largest contributors to pollution:
single-use plastic water
(though the government says it will implement a Deposit Return
for drinks containers to recycle billions more plastic bottles and stop them
being landfilled, incinerated, or littered — via a small deposit on drinks
products to incentivize people to recycle them), plastic
and the control of plastic waste
according to The Verge.
The EU instituted a ban in 2021 covering 10 common single-use
— which will theoretically have a much broader impact, as all member nations
plus Norway are part of the pledge. This ban is thought to have sped up
plans for the EU to introduce a more sweeping plastic waste and packaging
in an effort to tackle the continent’s mountainous waste issue. While nothing
formal has been set in Wales or Scotland, the momentum from these bans often
leads to faster adoption of more stringent regulation to address plastic waste
across industries and applications.
Although England has made some head-scratching decisions recently — including
approving a controversial new coal
in the northern part of the country — the collective force of more significant
bans in the EU, and eventually Scotland and Wales, will hopefully force the
Brits to follow suit to stay competitive in business and trade; and give it any
hope of achieving its climate-action
In the meantime, the broad consensus is that this new ban doesn’t go far enough.
For example, Baechler says biodegradable
should be included in the ban: “Biodegradable materials now have many of the
same ills as plastic — they can’t be recycled, end up clogging waste streams;
and many aren’t even really ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ as labeled.”
Single-use plastics are just one part of the global plastic pollution issue; and
while England’s forthcoming ban will create momentum, it’s only a step on the
long road ahead.
Published Feb 6, 2023 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
Geoff is a freelance journalist and copywriter focused on making the world a better place through compelling copy. He covers everything from apparel to travel while helping brands worldwide craft their messaging. In addition to Sustainable Brands, he's currently a contributor at Penta, AskMen.com, Field Mag and many others. You can check out more of his work at geoffnudelman.com.