New Measures To Eliminate Plastic Waste New Measures To Eliminate Plastic Waste

Publication Date15 April 2021
SubjectEnvironment, Environmental Law, Waste Management
Law FirmReynolds Porter Chamberlain
AuthorHenry Priestley and Brendan Collar

The government is set to introduce measures to further reduce the circulation of single-use plastics and encourage the use of recycled plastic. The measures are expected to influence all aspects of the retail supply chain and have a particular impact on the food and drink sector.

Why does it matter?

Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, it is likely that retailers that don't comply with legislative changes will find consumers are increasingly voting with their feet as environmental factors become a more defining feature of where they spend their money. Though it may be more costly for retailers to comply in the short term, there may be possible sanctions for non-compliance and we expect more stringent measures and/or monitoring to be introduced over time - so retailers may wish to get ahead now to the extent that they are not doing so already.

Single-use plastic ban fines

The sale of single-use plastic such as straws and drink stirrers to consumers has been banned in England since 1 October 2020. Surplus single-use plastic products purchased before 1 October 2020 can be sold until 1 April 2021 and drinks products with single-use plastic straws attached to the packaging can be sold until 3 July 2021. Any sales made after these dates risk local authority fines. Whilst catering establishments can continue to provide single-use plastic straws at the request of customers, these cannot be offered to customers or stored in customer view.

Single-use carrier bag charge extended

Following a reported 95% reduction in the sales of plastic bags in major supermarkets after the introduction of the plastic carrier bag charge in 2015, the government has announced that from April 2021, the charge will be extended to all retailers and increase to 10p.

Although yet to announce what specific or new enforceability measures will be put in place to police the increased charge, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has stated that it will take into account suggestions made at the consultation stage. These suggestions varied from self-regulation (as retailers could stand to gain from the increased price), to an auditing regulatory authority.

Plastic packaging tax

There is now an economic incentive for businesses to use recycled packaging materials as plastic packaging produced in or imported into the UK, containing less than 30% recycled plastic, will be taxed from April 2022. Draft legislation has now been published for technical consultation...

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