Last reviewed 6 September 2021

The Government has announced plans to end the supply of single-use plastics that threaten the natural environment.

Single-use plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups are among a raft of items that could be banned in England as part of a new public consultation being launched in the Autumn.

Government data estimates that on average each person uses a staggering 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 single-use plastic items of cutlery each year in England. The durability of plastic means single use plastics can last for centuries in landfill or as litter in the countryside, and are a major threat to marine life.

The Government says its proposals will lead to businesses using more sustainable alternatives and prevent plastic litter from polluting our landscapes. Environment Secretary George Eustice said progress is being made through “banning the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds”, but says more is needed.

“We’ve all seen the damage that plastic does to our environment. It is right that we put in place measures that will tackle the plastic carelessly strewn across our parks and green spaces and washed up on beaches.”

A large portion of discarded single use plastic items end up in seas and oceans. Around the world, more than one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die every year from eating or getting tangled in plastic waste.

Jo Morley, Head of Campaigns at City to Sea, said he welcomed government plans to stop pollution from single use plastics. “This is a much-needed move, that we as campaigners have been calling for, along with thousands of our supporters and members of the public,” Marley said.

Banning single use plastics is part of wider powers to prevent plastic pollution which also include the Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers, the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme and the £200 plastic packaging tax on plastic packaging which doesn’t meet a minimum threshold of at least 30% recycled content; due to come into force in April 2022. 

Industry is working to tackle plastic waste through the UK Plastics Pact, a collaboration between businesses from across the plastics value chain and coordinated by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).