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Single-use plastic plates and cutlery could be banned in England

Ministers launch public consultation and will also investigate limiting wet wipes, tobacco filters and sachets

Plastic cutlery on a table

Single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups could be banned in England as the government seeks to eliminate plastic waste.

Under proposals in a 12-week public consultation, businesses and consumers will need to move towards more sustainable alternatives.

A separate call for evidence will also investigate how to limit other polluting products such as wet wipes, tobacco filters and sachets.

Possible options include banning plastic in these items and mandatory labelling on packaging to help consumers dispose of them correctly.

An estimated 1.1bn single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of single-use cutlery – most of which are plastic – are used in England each year, but just 10% are recycled after disposal.

Environment Act powers could be used to introduce new charges on single-use items to end “throwaway culture” and give consumers an incentive to choose sustainable alternatives.

The proposals follow a ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, reducing the number of plastic bags being used and restricting the supply of single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

The environment secretary, George Eustice, said: “There is growing recognition of the damage that plastics cause to our environment and marine life in particular. We want to reduce the use of plastics in packaging and ban its use in items linked to littering.

“We have already banned plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds and now plan to extend the ban to cutlery and balloon sticks where alternative materials like wood can be used.”

Marcus Gover, the chief executive of sustainable resource use charity Wrap, said: “We welcome the consultation to expand the range of single-use plastic items to be banned in England.

“Eliminating problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic is essential if we are to turn the tide on plastic pollution and keep plastic out of the environment.

“The UK Plastics Pact set an ambitious target to take action in this important area and its members have already eliminated problematic plastic by more than 40%. We now need regulation to follow and ensure that all businesses take steps to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic.”

The devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own policies on plastic waste.

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