Defra launches single-use plastics consultation

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has today launched a 12-week consultation on its plans to ban a range of single-use plastic items.

The measures will ensure England and Northern Ireland don't have differing rules on single-use plastics (picture: Shutterstock)

Under Defra’s plans, this could see “problematic plastics such as single-use cutlery and plates” banned in England.

The department has also launched a call for evidence to tackle wet wipes that contain plastic, tobacco filters, sachets and single-use cups. This will also ask about a potential charge on these items to deter use.


In the consultation, Defra says expanded and extruded polystyrene cups and food and beverage containers could all be phased out along with single-use cutlery and plates.

Defra first announced the plans in August

Defra says the government will also examine “how we can put the responsibility firmly at manufacturers’ doors to make sure they are doing everything they can to tackle single-use plastics, including litter from cigarette butts”.

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.”

Northern Ireland

The move will bring England in line with the European Union, as per its single use plastics directive (SUP).

As the EU’s SUP directive was not transposed into UK law before the end of the Brexit transitional period, the government in Westminster is not required to implement the directive’s requirements.

This has led to fears that that single use plastic laws could differ across the UK (see story).

This is because under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland must  by 2022 or sooner, transpose “certain articles” of the SUP Directive relating to placing single-use plastic goods on the market, however this does not extend to the rest of the UK.

In the EU, member states will have to introduce a ban expanded polystyrene food containers and cups under the directive. This has not yet been introduced  in the UK, and nor has one on single-use plastic plates and cutlery.

This consultation would look to close that gap.


According to Defra, the UK uses 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups per year, while plastic sachets are often not recycled due to their small size, which makes it hard to segregate and clean them.

The Government will consider how a move to sustainable alternatives can be achieved without unfairly impacting on consumers.

The consultation comes a week after the passage of the Environment Act which will enable tougher action on single-use plastics in England.

The Act includes powers to place charges on single-use items, and the call to evidence will explore whether such a charge could be placed on single use cups or sachets to encourage a shift away from throwaway culture.


“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.”

– Marcus Gover, CEO at Wrap

Marcus Gover, CEO 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”.

Plans for the consultation were announced by the department in August (see story).


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