England to ban some single-use plastic items from October

Single-use plastic cutlery is pictured in a tray at a fast-food outlet west of London on 14 January, 2023. England will ban a wide range of single-use plastic items from October including plates and cutlery in order to limit their "devastating" effect on the environment, the government said Saturday.AFP

England will ban a range of single-use plastic items such as cutlery, plates and bowls from October in an effort to limit soaring plastic pollution, Britain's environment department said on Saturday.

The decision follows a public consultation by the government in which 95 per cent of respondents were in favour of the bans, the department said in a statement.

"We all know the absolutely devastating impacts that plastic can have on our environment and wildlife," Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said.

"These new single-use plastics bans will continue our vital work to protect the environment."

Most plastics can remain intact for centuries and damage oceans, rivers and land where millions of tonnes end up as waste each year.

The United Nations says decades of overuse of single-use plastics has caused a "global environmental catastrophe". 

The government said it is estimated England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery, most of which are plastic, a year as well as 721 million such plates, but only 10 per cent end up being recycled.

England's ban will also include single-use plastic trays, balloon sticks and some types of polystyrene cups and food containers.

A ban on supplying plastic straws and stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds came into force in England in 2020.

Anti-plastic campaign group A Plastic Planet welcomed the latest bans but called for further limitations, especially on sachets.

"The plastic sachet, the ultimate symbol of our grab and go, convenience-addicted lifestyle, should be the next target ... 855 billion sachets are used annually, never to be recycled," Sian Sutherland, the group's co-founder, said.

The British government said it was also considering limiting the use of other commonly littered and "promblematic" plastic items including wet wipes, tobacco filters and sachets.

Governments worldwide are clamping down on the use of single-use plastic in varying degrees, and a global survey last year found three in four people want single-use plastics to be banned as soon as possible.