In recent years, concern has grown about the effect on the environment of the use of plastics in retail, specifically single-use items, such as cutlery and balloon sticks. The government has been taking steps to reduce this and from 1st October 2023, businesses in England will be banned from supplying, selling or otherwise offering certain single use plastic items.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced this move now in order to give businesses time to prepare in order to be compliant with the requirements of the ban.
The ban on these items will include:
- online and over-the-counter sales and supply;
- items from new and existing stock;
- all types of single-use plastic, including biodegradable, compostable and recycled;
- items wholly or partly made from plastic, including coating or lining.
‘Single use’ means the item is meant to be used only once for its original purpose.
Preparing for the ban
Businesses can prepare for the new rules by:
- using up existing stock before 1st October;
- finding re-usable alternatives to single-use items;
- using different materials for single-use items.
If businesses continue to supply banned single-use plastics after 1st October, they could be fined.
There are some exemptions to the ban, depending on the item.
Plates, bowls and trays
From 1st October, businesses must not supply single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls to members of the public.
Businesses can still supply single-use plastic plates, bowls and trays if either of the following apply:
- they are supplying them to another business;
- the items are packaging (pre-filled or filled at the point of sale).
Examples of this type of packaging include:
- a pre-filled salad bowl or ready meal packaged in a tray;
- a plate filled at the counter of a takeaway;
- a tray used to deliver food.
Cutlery and balloon sticks
From 1st October, businesses must not supply single-use plastic cutlery or balloon sticks. There are no exemptions to this ban.
Polystyrene food and drink containers
From 1st October, businesses must not supply ready-to-consume food and drink in polystyrene containers. This includes in polystyrene cups. Polystyrene means expanded and extruded polystyrene.
Food can still be supplied in polystyrene containers if it needs further preparation before it is consumed. This could mean adding water, microwaving or toasting.
Local authorities will carry out inspections to make sure the rules are being followed.
- visit a shop or store;
- make test purchases;
- speak to staff;
- ask to see records.
If a business breaks the law, inspectors can order them to cover the cost of the investigation. Complaints about a business breaking the law can be made to Trading Standards.
Appealing a fine
A business can appeal within 28 days of getting a fine if they believe there are grounds to do so. A letter will accompany the fine notice, telling the business how to appeal.
It would be an acceptable defence if the business can show that it did everything it reasonably could to avoid breaking any rules.
What to do now
If you are concerned about the effect of the new ban on your business and want to make sure that you are doing all you can to prepare for it and ensure compliance, it is a good idea to speak to a legal expert with experience of advising businesses on regulatory compliance. This will give you peace of mind and ensure you don’t run into trouble after 1st October this year.