The government has published plans to ban commonly littered single-use plastic items, supporting their 25-year Environment Plan and the steps needed to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042. In this blog IEMA’s circular economy policy lead, Adam Batchelor, takes a look at what this means in practice.

From October 2023 the ban will include single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers. The ban will also include bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable plastic.

There are, however, some questionable anomalies as the ban will not include plates, trays, and bowls that are used as packaging, in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items and those found in eat-in and take-away settings.

We fully support the elimination of unnecessary single-use plastic items and set out a number of recommendations and called on the government to take a circular approach that is environmentally balanced in our response to the consultation that was held last year. That response can be found here.

We raised the issue that the government should set clear, robust, and consistent criteria against decisions so that outcomes are optimised across multiple environmental criteria. This included addressing the problem of unintended consequences from new products coming to market to replace banned plastic items and unifying definitions to align with larger trading blocks, such as the EU Taxonomy.

We are disappointed that the government has not taken action on shelf-ready pre-packaged food items. This is disappointing given that the hospitality and food retail sectors make up a significant proportion of single-use plastic use.

A key recommendation in IEMA's response highlighted the issues of unintended environmental consequences of new products coming to market that are designed to replace banned plastic items. Unfortunately, the government has not addressed these concerns.

New products coming to the market need to be supported at the conception and design stage with a measurement of circularity that has a threshold that deems a new product not circular enough. The new legislation should come with a support package to achieve greater circularity across all economic sectors.

The 25-Year Environment Plan highlights how the government would like to see a shift away from single-use items of all materials to reusable or refillable alternatives where possible. IEMA encourages the government, in partnership with industry, to take stronger action to support approaches that consider design, procurement, and increasing circularity of materials to enable this to come to fruition.

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Adam Batchelor

Policy and Engagement Lead

Adam is the Policy and Engagement lead for Circular Economy and Environmental Management at IEMA. Adam has 15 years of experience in the environment field, from local government waste and recycling, auditing contracts and implementing improvements into local services; to working for the Greater London Authority/Mayor of London for the last eight years. Adam has been responsible for co-developing and delivering the Mayor of London’s Environment Strategy (Waste and Circular Economy) and has led many circular programmes from plastic reduction in the capital to food waste reduction for small business. Adam joined IEMA in December 2021 and is responsible for leading the circular economy network and environmental management group.


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