Single-use plastic plates, cutlery and cups could be banned in England to tackle waste problems
SINGLE-use plastic plates, cutlery, food and drink containers and some polystyrene cups could be banned in England as part of efforts to combat plastic waste.
England uses an estimated 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of single-use cutlery per year, most of which are plastic, but only 10% are ever recycled.
Under proposals contained within a 12-week government consultation, it is proposed that both businesses and consumers now need to move permanently towards more sustainable alternatives.
As part of its research the government is also going to explore how to tackle other commonly littered plastics such as wet wipes, sachets, tobacco filters and other single-use cups.
The UK uses 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups per year, while plastic sachets are often not recycled due to their small size.
The government says it now needs to think about alternative options to the single use plastics we currently use, that can be achieved without unfairly impacting consumers.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: "Plastic damages our environment and destroys wildlife. This government has waged war on unnecessary, wasteful plastics - banning the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, while our carrier bag charge has cut consumption by 95% in the main supermarkets.
"But it’s time we left our throwaway culture behind once and for all.
"These new plans represent the next major step in eradicating the use of problematic plastics that pollute our natural world."
The consultation announcement comes a week after the Environment Act was passed, which will enable tougher action on single-use plastics in England.
Environment Act powers could be introduced to try to put a stop to what is described as a 'throwaway culture' – such as placing charges on single use items such as cups or sachets.
David Scott, corporate affairs director at Morrisons, said reducing plastic packaging is something he believes customers care deeply about.
He added: "We want to help customers live their lives with less reliance on plastic. We’ve already banned many single use plastics across our stores – including plastic plates, cutlery and straws, and we’ve developed recycling systems for soft plastics.
"Only this week we’ve announced we’re building a new soft plastic recycling site here in the UK. So we welcome Defra’s consultation and look forward to working with the whole of the industry on it."
Marcus Gover, CEO of sustainable resource use charity WRAP, said cutting England's reliance on single-use plastics is essential if the country is to succeed in cutting plastic waste overall.
He said: "Eliminating problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic is essential if we are to turn the tide on plastic pollution and keep plastic out of the environment. Despite the action taken so far on plastics, it remains widespread and its inappropriate disposal causes environmental damage."
A plastic item used for a few minutes can persist in the environment for hundreds of years say environmental experts.
When broken down into microplastics, it has the potential to spread to soils, waterways, oceans and food chains within them and around the world, more than one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals and turtles are thought to die every year from eating or getting tangled in plastic waste.