Loophole in UK’s plastics ban could cause it to fail, warns NLWA

Plastic packaging

An apparent flaw in the UK government’s forthcoming ban on some single-use plastics could make it ineffective, North London Waste Authority (NLWA) warns.

NLWA says it is seeking clarification from the government on contradictions in the draft legislation, which it says could cause a glaring loophole. NLWA says it is concerned that the draft states that it will be an offence to supply a single-use plastic plate, tray or bowl before then expressing that this “does not apply to the supply of a single-use plastic plate, tray or bowl that is packaging.”

This exemption for the packaging of prepared food such as plastic bowls for ready-to-eat meals, which are sold in supermarkets and are not included in the ban, NLWA believes, could potentially result in takeaway outlets and restaurants offering food already “prepared” in plastic containers.

The NLWA says it welcomes the incoming ban on plastic cutlery, balloon sticks and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers and calls on the government to include all plastic plates, bowls and trays for prepared food at all outlets.

Even if the loophole is closed as part of the extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation, the NLWA says this will only apply to businesses with a £1 million turnover, which produce more than 25 tonnes of packaging per annum. The waste authority contends this will mean thousands of takeaway outlets and restaurants across the UK will likely be exempt.

The Government must end its half-heartedness and navel-gazing.

NLWA Chair, Cllr Clyde Loakes, said: “The government’s ban of a few more single-use plastics is to be welcomed but it must be more than superficial. In its current form, it will be almost impossible to enforce and the UK will continue to be blighted by many single-use plastics.

“And while it is good news that the government has finally set the start date for the Deposit Return Scheme for some plastic drinks bottles and cans for October 2025, that’s still more than two and half years away.

“In this time, a shocking 11 billion plastic drinks bottles will not be collected for recycling as they will either be littered or put in bin-bags and contaminated by general waste rather than put in household recycling. Neither has a system for the return of glass bottles been developed by the government nor is there news about when EPR will begin.

“The Government must end its half-heartedness and navel-gazing. It must legislate effectively and without delay for the crucial changes our country needs to eliminate unnecessary and environmentally damaging waste.”

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