Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey confirmed that, from October this year, restaurants, cafes and takeaways will not be able to distribute single-use plastic plates, bowls, trays and cutlery. Certain types of polystyrene cup and containers will also be covered by the ban, in recognition of the fact that these items cannot be recycled.
This adds to bans from 2018, when the UK brought in the world’s toughest bans on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and introduced a ban on the supply of plastic straws, plastic drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. In addition, the use of single-use carrier bags has significantly decreased by over 97%in the main supermarkets with the introduction of a carrier bag charge.
In 2024, the Government is poised to extend restrictions on plates, bowls, trays and cutlery to supermarkets. Manufacturers of products including this packaging will be required to contribute to the cost of their recycling, under changes to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements.
Why is this important?
Plastic cutlery has become a staple in our daily lives. It's convenient, cheap, and disposable. However, the environmental impact of plastic cutlery is devastating. It takes hundreds of years for plastic to decompose, and during that time, it can harm wildlife and pollute our countryside and waterways. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to ban plastic cutlery, and for good reason.
Plastic cutlery is also a significant contributor to ocean pollution. Plastic waste can end up in the ocean through various means, including littering and improper disposal. Once in the ocean, plastic cutlery can be mistaken for food by marine animals, leading to injury or death. The plastic can also break down into smaller pieces known as microplastics, which can be ingested by marine animals and enter the food chain, ultimately harming human health.
The production of plastic cutlery also has a significant carbon footprint. Plastic is made from non-renewable resources such as oil and gas, which are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. The production process also requires a lot of energy, further contributing to the carbon footprint.
So.. what now?
Fortunately, there are alternatives to plastic cutlery that are both environmentally friendly and sustainable. Reusable cutlery made from materials such as bamboo or metal can be used over and over again, reducing the amount of waste produced. Compostable cutlery made from plant-based materials can also be a good alternative, as they break down quickly and don't contribute to plastic pollution.
Governments and businesses around the world are beginning to take action to ban plastic cutlery. The European Union, for example, proposed a ban on single-use plastic cutlery by 2021. Many companies are also phasing out plastic cutlery and replacing it with sustainable alternatives.
In conclusion, banning plastic cutlery is an essential step in protecting our environment. Plastic cutlery is a significant contributor to plastic pollution, ocean pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. By using sustainable alternatives, we can reduce our impact on the environment and move towards a more sustainable future.