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​Cutting through the confusion - Plastic Packaging Ban

​Cutting through the confusion - Plastic Packaging Ban

Posted by Emily on 3rd Oct 2023

A ban on some single-use plastic products came into force across England on Sunday 1st October and, although many fish and chip shops had the forethought to eliminate them from their businesses well in advance, there are still operators raising questions about what the regulations entail even now.

We hope to clear up any confusion once and for all, but if you still have questions, please do get in touch.

What does single-use mean?

‘Single use’ means the item is meant to be used only once for its original purpose. The ban includes all types of single-use plastic, including biodegradable, compostable and recycled products.

Why is the ban coming into force?

The single-use plastics ban is part of the Government’s wider campaign to tackle plastic pollution and eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

Research shows people across England use 2.7 billion items of mostly plastic single-use cutlery and 721 million single-use plates every year, but only 10% of these are recycled.

What is covered?

Put simply, no business – whether retailer, takeaway, food vendor or part of the hospitality industry – can now use single-use plastic cutlery, balloon sticks or ready-to-consume food and drink in polystyrene containers that have been through a foaming process (this includes expanded polystyrene - often shortened to EPS - and extruded polystyrene - often shortened to XPS.)

There is an exemption with regard to polystyrene, however, and that is if further preparation is required before the food or drink is consumed. For example, adding water, microwaving or toasting.

The supply of single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls has not been banned but has been restricted.

This means that fish and chip operators can continue to use them to serve food to their customers if items are pre-filled or filled at the point of sale. For example, 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.

This could change in future as there are already calls from certain quarters to extend the ban to single-use plastic takeaway boxes.

Can I use up any leftover single-use packaging after 1st October?

Absolutely not, and this is one aspect that the government has been clear about from day one.

The ban is overseen by local trading standards who can enter a premises to make test purchases, question staff and ask to see records. Any operator found still using banned items after 1st October 2023 could be fined.

We’ve heard from some operators already that local trading standards officials are doing the rounds in their areas, popping into outlets and doing spot checks and giving reminders. While some may be more lenient and issue a warning, others may not. 

Sources & Resources: 

  1. Single-use plastics ban: plates, bowls, trays, containers, cutlery and balloon sticks
  2. Single Use Plastics Ban - What is covered?
  3. New single-use plastic ban takes effect in England – here’s why its impact may be limited