Restaurants and cafes across England will soon be banned from using some of the most common single-use plastics, a ban that environmental groups have called necessary, insufficient and long overdue.

The long-anticipated regulation, announced Saturday, makes it illegal for those establishments to sell or distribute certain types of Styrofoam cups and food containers, as well as plastic plates, trays, bowls and cutlery designed to be used once and thrown away. It enters into force in October.

The new policy is “a really positive step in the right direction… but we’re late to the party,” said Steve Hynd, policy and media manager for Britain’s environmental organization City to Sea. The 27-member European Union has They have been subject to a bloc-wide directive since July 2021 banning items included in England’s new policy, and several have proposed additional legislation to curb plastic waste.

With Scotland implementing its own restrictions on single-use plastic plates and cutlery last year and Welsh promoting similar legislation, environmental groups said England was “the only country in europe” without a ban. Last month they filed a petition signed by over 118,000 people urging British politicians to catch up.

England uses more than 5 billion Single-use dishes and cutlery each year, according to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Most are made of plastic and end up incinerated, in landfills, or tossed aside as seeping trash. dangerous chemicals or breaks down into microplastics that contaminate the food chain. Because they are made primarily from fossil fuels, their production releases greenhouse gases warming the planet and disproportionately exposes marginalized communities to pollution.

Thérèse Coffey, England’s environment secretary, said in a declaration that the new rules would “continue our vital work to protect the environment for future generations.” She touted previous efforts to reduce plastic waste, including a ban 2020 into straws and drink stirrers made from the material, as well as a tax on single-use grocery bags.

Some environmental campaigners have called on England to clarify whether this latest ban includes bioplastics, as the EU does. Such products are made from things like corn, sugarcane, agricultural waste, or seaweed. However, they poses many of the same problems as conventional plasticswhile breeding new ones, the most difficult of which is using the land to grow those raw materials instead of food, he says, according to Britta Baechler, associate director of ocean plastics research for the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy.

Beyond that clarification, Hynd said more systemic action is needed to corroborate that of England promise to eliminate “inevitable” plastic waste by 2043. He called for a legally binding target to halve single-use plastic production by 2025 and the expansion of systems that encourage reusable alternatives. A deposit return program, for example, could incentivize reuse by charging customers a deposit when they purchase a bottled beverage and refunding it when the bottle is returned. (The UK announced it would pursue such a program in 2018, but officials later said that would not be implemented in England, Wales and Northern Ireland until at least 2024, partly due to continued economic disruptions from COVID-19).

Such policies should be seen as an opportunity to create a cleaner UK, Hynd said. He envisions a future where it is possible to walk through a park without seeing plastic littering the landscape, or sit on a beach without seeing it wash up on the shore. The plastic bans, he said, are just part of a “much larger journey to achieve that vision.”

By sbavh

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