In an attempt to deal with the growing plastic waste problem in the UK and the planet, the UK government is set to ban additional single-use plastic items like plates and cutlery in England, after banning straws, stirrers and cotton swabs there in 2020.
From November of last year to February of 2022, a public consultation regarding a plan to prohibit the supply of single-use plastic items and polystyrene food and drink containers was held by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), reported The Independent.
“We are determined to go further and faster to reduce, reuse, and recycle more of our resources in order to transform our waste industry and deliver on our commitments in the ambitious 25-year environment plan. Cutting our reliance on single-use plastics is crucial,” said a spokesperson for DEFRA, as The Guardian reported.
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Thérèse Coffey will announce plans to replace the single-use plastic items with biodegradable alternatives, reported the Financial Times.
Scotland imposed a similar ban earlier this year, and last week Wales approved a ban on single-use plastic products beginning in 2023.
Every year, 4.25 billion single-use cutlery items and 1.1 billion plates are used in England, which is equal to 75 pieces of cutlery and 20 plates per person, the government said, but only 10 percent of it gets recycled, CNN reported.
All of the single-use plastic products have reusable or non-plastic alternatives, Welsh Minister for Climate Change Julie James told the Financial Times.
“It’s not a lot more expensive at all, and as people realise how harmful these products are, more alternatives will come on stream at a cheaper price,” James said, as reported by the Financial Times.
DEFRA is also looking at how to deal with other single-use plastic items like tobacco filters and wet wipes.
Of the 331 million tons of plastic waste produced around the world annually, only around a tenth is recycled, and it can stick around for hundreds of years, breaking down into smaller pieces that contaminate the environment and can be ingested by wildlife and marine animals.
“Single-use plastic pollution is a social rights issue as well as an environmental one,” Greenpeace has said. “Single-use, disposable plastic finds its way into our poor and at-risk communities as large corporations realise massive profits through their use of single-use plastic packaging. As more developed countries start to take a stand and limit the amount of single-use plastic waste entering their borders, it is often countries in the Global South who bear the brunt of the flow of disposable plastic into their rivers, seas and landfills. Vulnerable people make use of the smothering tide of single-use plastic trade to make a meager living. Big business is aware of this but is taking very little real action to stem the tide of single-use plastic that they contribute to the problem.”