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England set to ban some single-use plastics

In a long-awaited step towards reducing pollution, the British government is poised to phase out certain products and replace them with biodegradable alternatives.

Two years ago, the extent of Britain’s plastic waste problem came to light.

Though the nation claims to be a world leader in tackling this kind of pollution, it was revealed by Greenpeace that despite our best efforts to protect the environment, more than half of what British authorities say is being recycled is instead ending up overseas piled into mountains, burned, or left spilling into the ocean.

The UK is the second largest producer of plastic on the planet, a statistic that needs to change.

To this end, the non-profit began calling on the government to set legally-binding targets on retailers to cut single-use plastic production in half by 2025.

The UK must match the rest of Europe and ban single-use plastic - City to Sea

Fast forward to today, and it seems as though their prayers were answered because according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), a suite of plastic products including cutlery, plates, trays, bowls, polystyrene cups, and food containers will be phased out.

While it’s unclear when exactly this will come into effect, the move has been welcomed for seeking to reduce the number of single-use plastic items that England uses every year (primarily relating to takeaways, which makes up the largest share of litter in the Earth’s seas).

Figures suggest that, at present, this total amounts to about 1.1bn single-use plates and 4.25bn of such cutlery – only 10% of which are ‘recycled.’ For this reason, environment secretary Thérèse Coffey is gearing to ban them.

‘A plastic fork can take 200 years to decompose, that is two centuries in landfill or polluting our oceans,’ she said.

Single-use plastic items to be banned in England — reports | Plastics | The Guardian

‘I am determined to drive forward action to tackle this issue head on. We’ve already taken major steps in recent years – but we know there is more to do, and we have again listened to the public’s calls.’

‘This new ban will have a huge impact to stop the pollution of billions of pieces of plastic and help to protect the natural environment for future generations.’

To date, similar bans have been made in Scotland and Wales, while the UK government banned single-use plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds in England in 2020.

This latest measure does not, however, cover items found in supermarkets or shops.

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While the government has said it will address those by other means, this has led to criticism regarding the ban’s somewhat limited scope.

‘Whilst the removal of billions of commonly littered items is never a bad thing – this is a very long overdue move and still a drop in the ocean compared to the action that’s needed to stem the plastic tide,’ tweeted Greenpeace campaigner Megan Randles, who believes that further action is needed.

She is, as a result, urging the government to deliver a ‘meaningful strategy on how to reduce plastic use,’ which would also include ‘stringent targets’ and a ‘proper reuse and refill scheme.’

Activists are also demanding a ‘deposit return scheme,’ which would incentivise recycling by charging consumers a deposit on containers and refunding it when they return empty ones to a collection point.