Hard on hospitality: FPA slams England’s single-use plastic ban as unscientific and undemocratic
11 Jan 2023 --- The UK’s Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) says that England’s plan to enforce a ban on single-use plastic cutlery, plates and trays for the hospitality sector is unfair and that there is no scientific basis to suggest the measure will help protect the environment. The association also says the government’s lack of communication with industry is undemocratic.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is expected to formally announce its intention on the ban this Saturday following a consultation period that closed in February last year. A draft of the regulation was leaked to the media this week.
The ban will broaden regulations against a number of other plastic items, such as microbeads, straws and cotton buds. However, the addition of plates, cutlery and trays will only apply to the hospitality sector – supermarkets and other outlets will be exempt and can continue using them.
The FPA’s director Martin Kersh tells PackagingInsights: “We have been anticipating the ban since 2020 and have been cooperating with Defra ever since.”
“The measures are unfair to the hospitality sector, which will be forced to buy more expensive packaging for which there is no evidence of environmental or economic benefit,” he asserts. “This comes at a time when the sector is on its knees post COVID-19 and on top of increased energy costs plus food inflation coupled with customers’ diminishing disposable income.”
“We are particularly concerned that we have learned about these measures via a media leak. It is simply not acceptable for businesses to learn of critical developments secondhand,” Kersh asserts.
The single-use footprint
Many industry players and scientific studies dispute the impact single-use plastics have on the environment compared to alternative materials or reusable models – some LCA have shown that single-use packaging has the lowest emissions rate of any design.
For example, a meta-analysis commissioned last year by the European Paper Packaging Alliance showed that water usage needed for cleaning reusable packaging sent emissions higher than disposables.
Kersh says the same is true for single-use plastics. “Litter is the reason for this proposed ban, but this action is unlikely to have a positive environmental impact as many alternatives have a higher carbon footprint, and the amount of litter will be unchanged,” he asserts.
“The only difference will be in the composition of litter, not the amount of litter.”
Costs coming consumers’ way?
Besides Kersh saying that the legislation against single-use plastics has no specific mention of any proven LCA benefit, the FPA also says foodservice companies will be economically punished for no reason.
“To some extent, foodservice operators wanting to do the right thing for the environment are being bounced into paying premiums for items that won’t make an appreciable difference on climate change and litter,” continues Kersh.
Instead of banning single-use plastic, the FPA says the government should change regulations on dealing with litter so that local authorities have a duty to issue fixed penalty notices for littering, with fines greatly increased from the current level of £150 (~US$190).
The FPA also calls for a code of conduct on how government departments issue information. “At the time of issuing this statement, the FPA has only just received a copy of the unattributed statement Defra issued to one title,” says Kersh. “Given this is a public consultation, effectively leaking the information to one newspaper cannot be seen as democratic.”
“We also question why a statement was issued in advance of the publication of the first consultation response – surely they should be published simultaneously,” he continues.
“We must also be given time to ensure the ban comes into being when there are sufficient stocks of alternatives, that time is given to use up stocks of the banned items and that foodservice retailers are not exploited. Ultimately, the public will have to pay for the higher-cost packaging.”
By Louis Gore-Langton
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