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The British government has put forward plans to ban single-use cutlery, plates and styrofoam cups made of plastic in England. The proposal will be discussed at the upcoming public consultation in the autumn as the government launches a “war on plastic”. While environmental activists have welcomed the move, groups have stressed the need for more action to be taken to address the waste crisis.
The UK government has just announced that it will wage a “war on plastic” under its new environmental law. The legislation is said to contain a number of bans on single-use plastic items such as cutlery, plates and styrofoam cups in England. Further discussions on the proposal will take place in the autumn months through a public consultation process.
Disposable plastic ban
In line with the European Union, which just introduced the new laws banning single-use plastic items in July, Great Britain is now imposing similar bans on single-use plastic cutlery, plates and styrofoam cups.
The UK government plans to ban single-use plastic cutlery in England. (Image: Unsplash)
Although only these three plastic items were mentioned, the government has not ruled out other single-use plastic products that could also be banned in England. It is said that a “raft of objects” could be included in the new directive to encourage companies to “switch to more sustainable alternatives and prevent plastic waste from polluting our landscapes”.
So far, the UK government has restricted the supply of plastic straws, stir sticks and cotton swabs and introduced a carrier bag fee.
Consumption of single-use plastic
Ministers say the new ban will directly aim to reduce high levels of single-use plastic consumption in England, with the long-term goal of “preventing all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042”.
According to the government, the average person in England uses 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 single-use cutlery each year. In a recent study, researchers found that take-away packaging, such as single-use bags, bottles, containers, and wrappers, is responsible for nearly half of all plastic pollution on coasts and in the ocean.
Food packaging makes up almost half of the plastic waste in the oceans. (Image: Unsplash)
“We all know the damage that plastic does to our environment. It is right that we take action to combat the plastic that is carelessly scattered over our parks and green spaces and washed up on the beaches, “commented Environment Minister George Eustice back greener” from the coronavirus pandemic.
Other measures that the government says it intends to implement include a system of extended producer responsibility (EPR), which obliges plastics manufacturers to bear the costs of recycling and disposal, as well as a levy on plastic packaging from 2022, which will tax items that do not contain at least 30% recycled content.
“We need the government to go much further”
Activists say more government action is needed to tackle plastic waste. (Image: Freepik)
Although green groups have welcomed the move, many are still concerned that the measures will not go far enough to affect the huge plastic crisis.
“We welcome the news that the government is taking steps to tackle some of the world’s most polluting single-use items. This is a much needed step that we, as activists, have called for, along with thousands of our supporters and the public, ”said Jo Morley, campaign director for the environmental NGO City to Sea.
“[But] We need the government to go much, much, much further, we are facing a plastic crisis and we have to turn off the tap. ”
Morley, along with other groups like Friends of the Earth, says politics must encourage people to drastically reduce plastic usage and switch to reusable models rather than simply banning single-use products.
In July, the World Economic Forum released a report that found that if the world simply reused 10% of plastic packaging, up to half of its annual plastic waste would be prevented from entering the oceans.
Mission statement courtesy of Freepik.