Above Photo: An overflowing bin of Styrofoam takeaway food containers and plastic utensils in Cardiff, UK. Wales passed a single-use plastic ban in December. Matthew Horwood / Getty Images.
In England, the government has announced plans to ban single-use plastic dinnerware, including closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam trays (commonly referred to as the brand name Styrofoam), plastic utensils and plastic plates.
The announcement follows similar bans in Scotland and Wales. Scotland’s ban on single-use plastics took effect in August 2022, and Wales recently passed a single-use plastics ban in December 2022 that will take effect in fall of this year.
England’s Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey confirmed the ban, noting that it would preserve the environment for future generations, as reported by the BBC. The announcement follows a consultation that ran from November 2021 to February 2022 on single-use plastics by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), with results expected to be shared on January 14, 2023.
It is estimated that 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of single-use cutlery are used in England every year, and only 10% of those items are recycled.
“A plastic fork can take 200 years to decompose, that is two centuries in landfill or polluting our oceans,” Coffey said, as reported by The Guardian. “I am determined to drive forward action to tackle this issue head on. We’ve already taken major steps in recent years — but we know there is more to do, and we have again listened to the public’s calls. This new ban will have a huge impact to stop the pollution of billions of pieces of plastic and help to protect the natural environment for future generations.”
While the ban is considered a step in the right direction, environmentalists are criticizing the announcement, saying it doesn’t reach far enough to limit single-use plastics. The BBC reported that the ban will cover single-use plastics for restaurants, including take-out food and beverages, but will not extend to grocery stores or retail shops.
Megan Randles, political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said on Twitter, “Whilst the removal of billions of commonly littered items is never a bad thing — this is a very long overdue move and still a drop in the ocean compared to the action that’s needed to stem the plastic tide.”
Randles also wrote that the government should focus more efforts on developing reuse and refill systems, including a deposit return scheme, as well as putting more pressure on producers to take responsibility for single-use plastics to make more meaningful changes.
“We’re dealing with a plastic flood, and this is like reaching for a mop instead of turning off the tap,” Randles said.