Last reviewed 29 November 2021

Single-use plastic plates, cutlery, polystyrene cups, and food and beverage containers, could soon be banned in England, as Defra “ramps up” efforts to eliminate the use of avoidable plastic waste.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, says the Government has “waged war on unnecessary, wasteful plastics”, and that it is “time we left our throwaway culture behind once and for all”. 

In 2015, the Government imposed the first tax on plastic bags. A ban on the sale of products containing plastic microbeads from personal care products came into force three years later, followed in October this year with a ban on plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers.

But the range of single-use plastic items being discarded is still a major problem. Studies estimate England uses approximately 1.1 billion single-use plates and over 4 billion pieces of single-use cutlery every year, of which only around 10% are recycled.

Launching the new consultation Eustice added: “There is growing recognition of the damage that 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.”

The consultation follows the passage of the Environment Act which will enable tougher action on single-use plastics in England. The Act includes powers to place charges on single-use items, and the consultation will explore whether such a charge could be placed on single-use cups or sachets to encourage a shift away from throwaway culture.

The Government will also examine how to ensure manufacturers are doing everything they can to tackle single-use plastics. Working through the recently formed UK Plastics Pact, the plan is for businesses from across the entire plastics value chain to work with Defra and NGOs to create a circular economy for plastics through redesign, innovation or to exploit alternative reuse options and eliminate single-use packaging.

The Consultation on banning single-use plastics sits alongside the launch of a separate call for evidence to address littered plastics such as wet wipes, tobacco filters, sachets and other single-use cups, which the Government is also considering.