Ban on single-use plastics from October 1 to affect restaurants, takeaways and food vendors with Trading Standards enforcing the rules
The way in which the food in your takeaway order arrives is changing.
Restaurants, takeaways, sandwich shops and other food outlets are facing strict new rules from Sunday, which will dictate how and what they can use to package food and drink.
A ban on all single-use plastic cutlery, trays, plates, bowls, and containers along with certain types of polystyrene cup and container comes into force in England this weekend.
The shift in the rules is part of Government efforts to tackle the amount of plastic that either spends years in landfill or ends up in rivers and seas posing a risk to wildlife.
An average person, says the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will use 18 single-use plastic plates and up to 37 single-use plastic items of cutlery every year.
While as a country England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery – most of which are plastic – and 721 million single-use plates per year, only 10 per cent of which are ever recycled.
If every item of single-use cutlery the nation uses could be lined up, it would stretch around the world over eight-and-a-half times, say ministers.
Exemptions to the ban
Takeaways, food vans, vendors, stalls and those in the hospitality industry are all affected by the ban from October.
However plastic plates, bowls and trays used as packaging for already-made takeaway food and drink in shops and other outlets will not be covered by the new ruling.
Pre-packaged food items that are ‘shelf ready’ will not be included in the October ban.
This type of food will instead be included in an ‘Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme’ which will incentivise producers to use packaging that can be recycled or that meets higher recycling targets. For example, this would include pre-packaged salad bowls in shops and bowls filled with food at the front counter of a takeaway.
Enforcing the rules
Local authorities and Trading Standards departments are set to take on responsibility for enforcing the new rules once they are in place.
Inspectors will be able to visit a business, speak to staff, ask to see purchasing records for items or make test purchases themselves.
Any owner caught in breach of the new law will face a fine and could also be made to foot the bill for the investigation that was required.
Customers concerned about any packaging a vendor is using should direct any complaints to their local Trading Standards department.
Earlier and future bans?
The UK Government banned single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England in 2020.
Prior to these bans those items collectively are estimated to have contributed to around 5.7 per cent of marine litter. After the ban – the Great British Beach Clean 2021 reported cotton bud sticks had moved out of the UK’s top 10 most common beach litter items.
Wet wipes, tobacco filters and plastic sachets are expected to be the next items under the spotlight – with ministers currently considering whether further measures for these are needed – describing them as ‘problematic plastic items’.
Those ahead of the ban
In November 2022, McDonald's announced it was phasing out all of its plastic cutlery as part of an effort to rid all its restaurants of single-use plastics.
The fast food giant, which replaced plastic straws for paper ones in 2018 ahead of the official Government ban, has also swapped plastic salad packaging for paper and removed the plastic lids from its dessert range. More recently it ditched its iconic McFlurry plastic stirrer in favour of a spoon made from paper.
Matt Hood, MD of Co-op Food, is also among the big-name businesses to welcome this next step.
He said: “We have been at the forefront of eradicating unnecessary plastic, so it is encouraging to see this ban being introduced and we have already removed plastic cutlery from our food to go, offering wooden forks instead.
“We were the first retailer to ensure all of our own brand food and drink packaging is 100% recyclable through our in store soft plastic recycling scheme, with all the soft plastics returned being processed in the UK.”