GOOD NEWS: The government announced its own New Year’s Resolution in the first week of January: the banning of single-use plastic cutlery and plates in England.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is due to publish their report soon after a long consultation process.
And when you look at the stark figures, you can see why.
The Picnic Problem…
It’s estimated that around 4.25 billion plastic knives, forks and spoons along with over a billion single-use plates are used in England every year. They’re pretty big figures, right? But it’s even more astonishing that only 10% of this plastic is actually recycled.
The worst part of it? 'A plastic fork can take up to 200 years to decompose', according to the Environmental Secretary, Therese Coffey.
To rub more salt in the wound, plastic litter makes up 80% of all marine pollution and around
8 to 10 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year.
It’s not just our oceans either. Plastic waste on land is burned in an incinerator, releasing carbon dioxide and many other toxic gasses into the atmosphere.
Stick a (non plastic) fork in me, I’m done.
How the Ban Will Work…
So, it’s no surprise that the announcement of the new ban has been welcomed. Defra’s consultation report showed that:
96% people who took part in the consultation backed the ban on items such as cutlery, plates and polystyrene food containers.
64% strongly believe the ban should start before the proposed April 2023 target
And 61% said that bio-based, ‘compostable’ and ‘biodegradable’ plastics should also be banned.
However, the plans do come with a warning from Megan Randles , a political campaigner from Greenpeace:
'This is like reaching for a mop instead of turning off the tap.'
'We need the government to deliver a meaningful plastic reduction strategy, which means bringing in plastic reduction targets and a proper reuse and refill scheme.'
The measures should come into effect in April 2023 – and will stop restaurants, cafes and takeaways using single-use cutlery, plates and food containers. Instead, they’ll need to provide environmentally-friendly alternatives. But this doesn’t include the sale of the plastic waste polluters in shops and supermarkets; we’re told this will be tackled in a different way.
EU What, Mate?
It’s time for the EU comparison. What have they done to rid Europe of the plastic problem? Well, quite a bit in fact – and the UK is lagging behind.
From 3 July 2021, single-use plastic plates and cutlery were banned from all shops, markets and restaurants for all EU Member States. This included food, cups and drink containers, as well as cotton buds and straws made of expanded polystyrene, and all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.
We’re all told that oxo-degradable is the better solution. But that isn’t quite the case – it’s been found that these types of plastics don’t fully break down and, instead, contribute to microplastic pollution.
With concern of the lack of action taken in England and fear of missing the April 2023 target, City to Sea, 38Degrees and Greenpeace launched their #CutTheCutlery campaign in the summer of 2021. 118,000 people voiced their anger in the petition and demanded Defra to start taking action to tackle the ever-rising issue.
As well as calling for legally binding targets for single-use plastic reduction and reuse within the Environment Act – there’s a clear aim of a 50% reduction of single-use plastic by 2025, and 25% of packaging to be reusable by 2025.
Let’s not forget about our neighbours. Scotland has already passed laws banning these items, and Wales has released its draft legislation.
So, now we wait for more details with bated breath – hoping it’s not too little too late.
How You Can Help
Use as close to zero single-use plastic as possible. Sounds simple. But more than 80% of ocean litter is plastic , and one of the main culprits is convenient, throwaway plastics.
Write to your local MP. Ask the very simple question 'why has this government still not banned more'.
Shout about it on all your socials and spead the word.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Burning waste on a landfill in Peru - Image by Alex Proimos on creativecommons. (St ref: 1099)
Fish and chips takeaway - Image by Jakub Kapusnak on Foodiesfeed (ST ref: 1098)