Plastics ban ‘nibbling around the edges’ of the problem, say campaigners
Thursday, 26 January 2023, Katie Coyne
The government is to introduce a ban on some single-use plastic items in England from October, but environmental campaigners say it is not enough.
Environment secretary Thérèse Coffey announced earlier this month (14 January) the government’s plans to introduce a ban, saying it was “vital work to protect the environment for future generations”.
The ban will include plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and expanded and extruded polystyrene food and drinks containers, including cups.
These add to the list of single-use plastic products already prohibited in 2020, including straws, stirrers and cotton buds.
After the 2020 ban was introduced, the Great British Beach Clean 2021 said cotton bud sticks were no longer in the top 10 of the UK’s most common beach litter items.
WRAP interim CEO Richard Swannell said the latest announcement marked “important progress in the wholesale removal of problematic and unnecessary plastics”.
He added that WRAP had measured “an 84% reduction in problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics by our UK Plastics Pact members since 2018”.
However, environmental groups said that though welcome, the recent announcement did not go far enough.
Greenpeace UK plastics campaign lead Nina Schrank said: “This announcement is really just nibbling around the edges of a giant problem.
“Banning items one by one might produce nice headlines for the government, but the reality is it won’t stem the staggering amount of plastic the UK produces each year. That’s only going to happen with a serious strategy to cut plastic production.
“As part of this, the government needs to announce reuse targets that mean supermarkets have to follow suit, offering reuse and refill solutions to their customers that eliminate the need for disposable packaging.
“It urgently needs to end the export of waste overseas, which has led to open dumping in countries like Turkey.
“We also need Defra to end its culture of dither and delay, and finally bring in the long-promised bottle return scheme [Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)], which will stop billions of bottles and containers being dumped each year.”
A spokesperson from campaign group Plastic Free Communities said the ban was “only a first step”, and more action was needed “urgently”. They argued the legislation lagged behind Wales and Scotland, who took action last year.
They added: “With eight billion containers predicted to be entering the ocean every year, which would not be banned under this scheme, the government must go much further to protect our waterways, which are already choked by plastic.
“We need to see government move beyond piecemeal policies that only scratch the surface of plastic pollution, to take real, lasting action and change our broken system.”
Plastic Free Communities also highlighted the delay to the DRS and flagged the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, asking where both had “disappeared to”.
The spokesperson continued: “A DRS would put an end to at least 56% of the plastic entering the ocean, yet there has been little movement on the issue since the government committed to the policy in 2018.”