Include biodegradable plastic in English single-use cutlery ban, say campaigners

Campaign group says many bioplastics are damaging and they should not be excluded from any ban

Campaigners have urged the environment secretary not to exclude biodegradable plastic from a ban on single-use cups, plates and cutlery.

Thérèse Coffey is expected to announce a ban on single-use plastic items such as cutlery and stirrers in the coming weeks, according to the Financial Times. Campaigners have condemned the suggestion that she would allow so-called biodegradable plastic single-use items to continue to be used as an alternative.

The EU has banned single-use plastic items since July 2021 and its guidance is clear that “biodegradable/bio-based plastics are considered to be plastic”.

Steve Hynd, a policy manager for the campaign group City to Sea, called for Coffey to clarify her intentions, and said bioplastics must be included in any ban.

“It is incredibly alarming to read reports that these important, and frankly very minimum, environmental standards might be watered down to exempt ‘biodegradable’ single-use alternatives,” he said. “Many of these bioplastics are incredibly environmentally damaging and won’t break down in the natural environment and so will do nothing to tackle the plight of plastic pollution.”

Hynd said he welcomed the news that polluting single-use items were likely to be banned soon. More than 118,000 people backed a City to Sea petition calling for a ban, and 50,000 called for a ban in a consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that ran from November 2021 to February this year.

“We’ve waited years longer than other countries, but I trust them when they now promise that their plan to ban these items will be released in the coming weeks,” Hynd said.

Scotland and Wales have already legislated separately to ban various single-use plastics, including those described as biodegradable.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are determined to go further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our resources in order to transform our waste industry and deliver on our commitments in the ambitious 25-year environment plan. Cutting our reliance on single-use plastics is crucial.

“Having already banned single-use straws, stirrers and cotton buds and ended the sale of billons of single-use bags with our plastic bag charge, we will be responding soon to a consultation on further bans of plastic plates, cutlery, balloon sticks and expanded and extruded polystyrene cups.”


Sandra Laville

The GuardianTramp

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