UK government launches consultation to expand single-use plastic ban in line with Europe
25 Nov 2021 --- The UK is planning to expand its single-use plastic ban following the passing of the country’s long-awaited Environment Act.
A week after the Act was made law, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) launched a 12-week ongoing consultation on expanding the UK Plastic Pact, set for enforcement next year, to broaden the range of single-use plastic items that will be outlawed.
Each of the UK’s four devolved nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have established individual but similar measures banning the most polluting single-use plastic items. These items include plates, cups, straws and cutlery.
According to the government, it is estimated each person uses 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 single-use plastic items of cutlery each year in England.
Importantly, the DEFRA consultation is seeking to align UK policy with the EU Single Use Plastics Directive. Northern Ireland is already obliged to adhere to some of its protocols under the Brexit agreement.
Call for evidence
A call for evidence by DEFRA is asking respondents how problematic items such as wet wipes, tobacco filters, sachets, and other single-use plastic cups can be challenged and if charges could be appropriately employed to decrease consumption dramatically.
All of the items proposed in the consultation present recycling issues, according to UK producer responsibility compliance scheme Ecosurety. For example, multi-material sachets are often too small to segregate and clean before they are reprocessed.
It is estimated that every year England uses 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of single-use cutlery, which are predominantly made of plastic, with only 10% recycled, says Ecosurety.
Environment Secretary George Eustace comments: “There is growing recognition of the damage plastics cause to our environment and marine life, in particular. We want to reduce the use of plastics in packaging and ban its use in items linked to littering.”
“We have already banned plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds and now plan to extend the ban to cutlery and balloon sticks where alternative materials, like wood, can be used.”
UK Environment Act
The Environment Act took almost three years to come into force and will see a raft of resources and measures imposed to reverse environmental degradation. Eustice claims the Act will “deliver the most ambitious environmental program of any country on earth.”
The legislation will see the development of deposit return schemes (DRS) for beverage containers, an updated extended producer responsibility scheme, and plans for consistent recycling collections for every household and business in the UK.
Britain will also introduce a plastic packaging tax from April 2022, set at £200 (US$266) per metric ton, on plastic packaging not meeting the minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content.
In related news, Scotland is set to further delay its long-planned DRS for beverage packaging until late 2023, over three years after the plan was unveiled.
Environmental campaigners are accusing the government of yielding to industry lobbying and risking increasing already high levels of pollution in the country.
By Louis Gore-Langton
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