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The UK government is set to ban some single-use plastic products, a long-awaited step towards reducing pollution that environmentalists hope will be one of many.
The ban will cover plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks and certain types of polystyrene cups and plastic food containers, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said. . The Sunday Mail.
A department spokesperson confirmed to NPR that the full announcement will arrive on Saturday.
“A plastic fork can take 200 years to decompose, that’s two centuries in a landfill or pollute our oceans,” said Environment Secretary Therese Coffey. The mail. “This new ban will have a huge impact in stopping the pollution of billions of pieces of plastic and will help protect the natural environment for future generations.”
It aims to reduce plastic pollution
England banned single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton swabs with plastic swabs in 2020.
This new ban applies specifically to plastic food and drink packaging from restaurants and cafes, not supermarkets and shops. The government plans to deal with these in a separate program that would require manufacturers to cover disposal costs from 2024.
And it’s not a total surprise. Environmentalists have long campaigned for this type of ban in England – Scotland came into force last summer and Wales approved one in December – and the UK government has been seeking comments from the UK for some time. public about potential plastic bans. Officials indicated last month that restrictions were on the horizon.
(Meanwhile, in the United States: several states and localities have banned certain plastic products, namely bags, and California has established the country’s strictest plastic reduction rules in legislation passed the last summer. The federal government plans to phase out single-use plastics in national parks by 2032).
Conservationists are applauding England’s ban as an important step towards solving the pervasive problem of plastic pollution, although it is not enough on its own.
Each person in England uses an average of 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 plastic cutlery each year – but only 10% of this waste is recycled into new things, according to Defra statistics reported by the BBC. Overall, according to the department, England uses 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.3 billion single-use cutlery a year.
It’s both dangerous for the environment and “completely unnecessary”, says Steve Hyndside, policy manager for UK non-profit City to Sea.
He pointed out in a Monday interview with LBC radio that all the items covered by this ban already have potential substitutes on the market, be it cardboard boxes, wooden utensils or even fingers.
“What we’re talking about here is, I think, a really positive view,” Hyndside said. “So while we all love the convenience of single-use plastic, and I think there’s no point in pretending it’s not there… we just can’t carry on the way we are.”
There is public support for the ban…
England’s 25-year environment plan – set out in 2018 – calls for eliminating avoidable plastic waste by 2042.
Defra said in November 2021 that although it had already proposed and adopted measures to achieve this goal, these measures did not sufficiently address the problem of single-use plastic items. It solicited public comment on the potential bans during a consultation period that ran until February 2022, which appears to have informed its decision.
“I am determined to push forward the action to tackle this issue head-on,” Coffey said. The mail. “We know that there is still a lot to do and we have again listened to the calls of the public.”
Greenpeace UK says the “vast majority” of the more than 51,000 people who have declared their opinion on the consultation support a ban on all items to be examined (such as cutlery and plates), with support at 96% or more” across the board.”
Separately, environmental groups submitted a petition to ban the articles, with more than 117,000 signatures, to the Prime Minister’s office at the end of the comment period in February.
After reports of the new ban surfaced, environmental groups applauded it as an important decision, but one of many the government must take to make a meaningful difference.
“We need to wean ourselves off single-use items,” an environmental organization tweeted. Keep Britain tidy. “[Defra’s] plans to ban single-use plastic plates and cutlery in England are a step in the right direction. »
…and calls for further action
Many would like to see more and more systemic changes.
As part of their ‘Cut the Cutlery’ campaign, Greenpeace, City to Sea and 38 Degrees called on the government to work faster to meet European Union restrictions on single-use plastic, which it had agreed to before Brexit. They also want it to set its own legally binding targets for 2025, including to reduce single-use plastics by 50% and for 25% of plastics to be reusable.
Proponents are also calling for a “deposit return system”, which would encourage recycling by charging customers a deposit on beverage containers and refunding it when they return the empty container to a collection point. UK officials have said such a scheme will not come into effect in England, Wales and Northern Ireland until at least the end of 2024, six years after it was first announced.
Megan Randles, a political activist from Greenpeace UK, said in a tweet that ‘removing billions of commonly discarded items is never a bad thing’, but called the new ban a late decision and ‘still a drop in the ocean compared to the action needed to stem the tide of plastic”.
“We need system change at source – reduction and reuse/refill targets, meaningful extended producer responsibility (so polluters actually pay) and a deposit system like so many European countries have. have already done,” she said.
City to Sea’s Hyndside called the partial plastics ban “minimum standards” and called on the government to go further by releasing a comprehensive strategy to tackle plastic pollution as a whole.
“We need to move away from all types of single-use disposable items,” he said, “and try to encourage a more circular economy.”