Disposable cutlery and plates goodbye: revolution in the UK

Elizabeth Smith

The UK will ban single-use plastic items such as cutlery, plates and trays to reduce pollution. The British government, through Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey, confirmed the ban, without providing further details or a specific date.

UK: nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic per year

The decision was based on a consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which found that the UK uses about 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion pieces of disposable cutlery each year, of which only 10 percent is recycled.

It is estimated that Britons dispose of about 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging per year. On the ban on the sale of single-use plates and cutlery, Coffey said:

“I am determined to tackle this issue head-on. We have already taken important steps forward in recent years, but we know that there is still much to be done. This new ban will have a huge impact in stopping the pollution of billions of pieces of plastic and helping to protect the natural environment for future generations. A plastic fork can take 200 years to decompose, in landfills or polluting our oceans.”

Only 10 percent of single-use plastics recycled in England

In England, about half of all plastic goes into single-use items, about 40 percent of which is packaging. Brits use an average of 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 pieces of plastic cutlery per year, according to Defra, while only 10 percent of these are recycled.

The shocking fact is that virtually every piece of plastic produced still exists in some form, except for the small amount that has been incinerated.

Read also: 10 great alternatives to single-use plastics for everyday use

The “Cut the Cutlery” campaign

Greenpeace, City to Sea and 38 Degrees have launched a campaign called “Cut the Cutlery” to call on the government to act more quickly to adhere to the restrictions on single-use plastics set by the European Union before Brexit.

They are also calling for legally binding targets to be set for 2025. Including a 50 percent reduction in single-use plastics and a 25 percent increase in reusable plastics.

The call for a deposit system

Environmental activists are calling in England for the introduction of a “deposit system” that would encourage recycling by charging consumers a deposit on beverage containers and returning the money to them when they are returned empty to a collection point.

British officials said such a program would not be operational in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland until at least the end of 2024.

More bans against plastic

Scotland introduced a ban on companies using a variety of single-use plastic products in June last year. Single-use straw, stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds were also banned in England in 2020.

In Wales, laws for a similar ban were passed in December and will take effect in 2023. However, this measure does not cover items sold in supermarkets or stores. The government has said it will address them through other initiatives.

Read also: Single-use plastic, the countries that have banned it

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