plastics loophole PR
Published date: 25 January 2023

Loophole in the Government’s plastics ban could cause it to fail

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

NLWA has noted some contradictions in the draft legislation, which could cause a glaring loophole. NLWA is concerned that, while on the one hand the draft states that it will be an offence to supply a single-use plastic plate, tray or bowl, it then states 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, and therefore prevent the desperately needed reduction in single-use plastics.

While NLWA greatly welcomes the banning of plastic cutlery, balloon sticks and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers, it calls on the Government to include all plastic plates, bowls and trays for prepared food at all outlets.

Although, the Government may say that this loophole will be closed under the much-delayed Extended Producer Responsibility legislation, unfortunately, this will only apply to businesses with a £1 million turnover, which produce more than 25 tonnes of packaging per annum. Many thousands of takeaway outlets and restaurants across the UK will likely be exempt.

In the meantime, NLWA is seeking clarification from the Government.

NLWA’s warning comes after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published the outcome of a consultation on certain single-use plastics. The consultation also covered wet wipes and single-use cups, as well as tobacco filters and sachets.

In total, 96% of respondents stated they want wet wipes banned and 85% of respondents want the Government to consult on introducing a charge for single-use cups. NLWA renews its call for a 50p charge on disposable coffee cups to reduce the colossal 2.5 billion cups, which are used in the UK each year, and to help encourage the switch to reusable cups. NLWA also urges a swift implementation of a ban on wet wipes, tobacco filters, and plastic sachets.

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 with 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 Extended Producer Responsibility 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.”

Meanwhile, Chris Skidmore MP, in his recently published, Independent Review of Net Zero, has urged the Government to implement Extended Producer Responsibility. NLWA welcomes Mr Skidmore’s review which includes recommendations to help the UK economy become circular. This includes building more recycling facilities to enable the processing of recyclable material and in turn the manufacture of new goods made with recycled content. NLWA calls on the UK government to implement the Review’s recommendations.