The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published guidance on the upcoming single-use plastics ban in England from 1 October 2023.
On 14 January, Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey announced a range of single-use plastics will be banned in England from 1 October 2023. Once the ban comes into place, businesses must no longer supply, sell or offer certain single-use plastic items in England.
The ban on these items will include online and over-the-counter sales and supply, items from new and existing stock, all types of single-use plastic, including biodegradable, compostable and recycled, and items wholly or partly made from plastic, including coating or lining. There are some exemptions to the ban, depending on the item.
In preparation, Defra has published guidance for businesses on how to prepare for the ban. This includes using up existing stock before 1 October, finding reusable alternatives to single-use items and using different materials for single-use items.
The ban means that businesses will not be allowed to supply single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls to members of the public, or they could face a fine.
As part of the guidance, Defra lays out the exemption criteria for these items. This includes if the business is supplying them to another business or the items are packaging (pre-filled or filled at the point of sale), which could include a pre-filled salad bowl or ready meal packaged in a tray, a plate filled at the counter of a takeaway or a tray used to deliver food.
The ban also includes ready-to-consume food and drinks in polystyrene containers and cups. However, the guidance states that businesses can still supply food or drink in polystyrene containers if it needs further preparation before it is consumed, which could mean adding water, microwaving or toasting.
Finally, the ban also encompasses single-use plastic cutlery and balloon sticks, with no exemptions available for either of the items, according to the guidance.
Defra’s guidance also expands on how inspections will be carried out. It states that local authorities will carry out inspections to make sure the rules are being followed. Inspectors can visit a shop or store, make test purchases, speak to staff and ask to see records.
If a business breaks the law, inspectors can order it to cover the cost of the investigation. Complaints about a business breaking the law can be made to Trading Standards, according to the guidance.
Businesses can appeal a fine within 28 days of receiving it and if the business can show that it did everything it reasonably could to avoid breaking any rules, this would be an acceptable defence, Defra says in the guidance.
The guidance also includes technical information for manufacturers on expanded and extruded polystyrene.