Government plans to ban the use of single-use plastics in England will come into force in October, following similar legislation which was enacted in Scotland and Wales in 2021.
The ban will make it illegal to use single-use plastic packaging, with businesses such as takeaways worrying that the extra costs involved in switching to recyclable materials will reduce the number of restaurants on British high streets.
A survey by Big Hospitality stated that, in May 2022, one-third of people had cut down on their number of meals out or takeaways in the wake of higher inflation and a cost of living crisis. This made life even more difficult for smaller, often independent, restaurants off the back of the Covid-19 pandemic and changing work patterns which have seen more people working from home.
These costs however are mitigated by the environmental impact a ban on single-use plastics would have, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) finding that around 2.7 billion pieces of single-use cutlery, as well as a further 721 million single-use plates, are used in England annually. With it not yet being possible to recycle these items, many end up in landfill or find their way into our waterways or the wider natural habitat.
Environmental charity Greenpeace commented that this legislation is merely “nibbling around the edges” of a wider problem, with the organization pushing to see reuse targets implemented within supermarkets; a piece by Tom Bawden of I news in 2020 noted that UK supermarkets used a staggering 114 billion pieces of single-use plastic in a year.
Since then, major supermarkets such as Lidl and Tesco have committed to using only eco-friendly materials by 2025, with 94% of packaging used by the Co-Op already being at-home recyclable.
As a part of this, Defra are contemplating a move towards a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers. Such schemes are already commonplace in European countries such as Germany and is due to come into play in Scotland in August of this year. Shoppers will pay an additional 20p deposit on any drink bought in a single-use container, which will be returned to them once they take said container back to be recycled. Providing a financial incentive is hoped to improve the chances of people returning and recycling bottles or cans and subsequently reduce wastage at landfill that bleeds into the natural world.
The DRS campaign suggests that £62 million a year spent on tackling the impact of litter could be saved and funnelled back into the Scottish economy, funding schools, health care, or supporting businesses in the switch to becoming greener.
It is possible that the introduction of such a scheme in England would mitigate any extra expenditure on the aforementioned ban on single-use plastics, with some estimates suggesting that environmentally friendly takeaway boxes or cutlery could cost up to an extra 12p per item.
With the ban not coming in until October, there is time to iron out any kinks and work with business leaders to ensure that the switch to a green economy works for everyone involved.
Cover image available from The Guardian
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