More than 100,000 people have called on the government to ban the most polluting single-use plastic items, such as plastic cutlery, plates and polystyrene food packaging. The call comes as public pressure builds on Environment Secretary George Eustice to be quicker and more ambitious in tackling plastic pollution once and for all.
A petition with 117,000 signatures was handed into Downing Street today, ahead of the government closing its consultation on banning common single-use items this Saturday. The campaigners carried eye-catching placards and giant cutlery props with the wording ‘For Fork’s Sake’ and ‘Cut the Cutlery’.
A staggering 51,000 members of the public have participated in the consultation, with the help of plastic pollution campaigners City to Sea and campaign group 38 Degrees.
The vast majority of respondents back a ban on all the items being considered – such as cutlery, plates and polystyrene food containers – with support at 96% or above across the board.
Crucially, almost two thirds (64%) say the ban should kick in sooner than the government’s April 2023 start date. Scotland is due to introduce a comparable ban by June 2022 and members of the European Union were expected to have a ban in place by July 2021 leading to campaigners accusing the government of a “dereliction of Brexit promises”.
Megan Bentall, Head of Campaigns at 38 Degrees, said:
“There’s no doubt about it – this is an absolutely massive show of public support for finally banning these unnecessary and polluting plastic items.
“The fact that more than 50,000 people have taken the time to participate in a detailed government consultation on this issue is the clearest demonstration yet that we are simply done with these plastic items polluting our environment.
“The government has no choice but to listen. And they should respond with a quicker, more ambitious plan.”
The petition was submitted jointly by plastic pollution campaigners City to Sea, campaign group 38 Degrees, and environmental NGO Greenpeace, as part of the #CutTheCutlery campaign.
The campaign calls on the government to meet and exceed – in the quickest possible time frame – the EU’s own ban, which the bloc introduced back in July as part of its Single-Use Plastics Directive. The UK agreed to the ban whilst still a member of the EU, but since Brexit has dragged its feet in delivering it at home.
Once these very minimum standards have been introduced, the campaigners are calling on the government to go much further through the target setting process of the Environment Act. They’re calling for legally binding targets for single-use plastic reduction and reuse within the Environment Act – with the aim of a 50% reduction by 2025, and 25% of packaging to be reusable by 2025.
The public’s view
The government’s consultation, which closes this weekend, seeks views on banning single-use plastic plates, bowls, trays, cutlery, balloon sticks, and polystyrene food and drinks containers.
“These items are the first baby-steps in a long journey ahead. The public has removed any room for doubt that DEFRA may have had” said Steve Hynd, City to Sea’s Policy Manager.
51,462 members of the public submitted their views into the consultation via 38 Degrees and City to Sea, with support for the ban peaking at 98.3% for polystyrene food containers. 94% of respondents also said there should be no exemptions.
87% of respondents also disagreed with government plans to continue allowing plastic plates that are classed as ‘packaging’ – for example, where they’re filled with food at the point of sale, such as from a food truck. The vast majority said a ban should include all plastic plates.
Almost two thirds (64%) also say the ban should kick in sooner than the government’s April 2023 start date, with 35% agreeing with the proposed date. Just 2% said it should be later.
Two thirds (67%) of respondents said they’d be ‘very willing’ to pay more for products and services that used packaging in a more sustainable way, with a further quarter (25%) ‘slightly willing’.
Importantly, 61% also said that bio-based, compostable and biodegradable plastics should also be banned – something that the campaigners have dubbed “critical” for tackling plastic pollution. The wide-scale use of material substitutes such as bioplastics should be regarded with caution. Bioplastics can be harmful to the environment and won’t shift people of companies away from a culture of throwaway packaging.
Steve Hynd, City to Sea’s Policy Manager, commented:
“Whilst we welcome the banning of a few of the plastics that are most commonly found littered in our natural environment, we need to be clear; we’re a long way off from being ‘world leaders’ in tackling plastic pollution. These are the first baby-steps in a long journey ahead. The public has removed any room for doubt that DEFRA may have had, they need to crack on and ban these most polluting single-use plastics without any more delay or feet dragging. Once this has happened we can seriously start to address the other sources of plastic pollution.
“To address the other sources of plastic pollution we need two big policy announcements. The first, and this has to happen as part of the Environment Act target setting process, is to see a legally binding target to reduce single-use plastics as a whole by 50% by 2025. The second is to turbocharge the refill and reuse revolution. We are calling on the government to set a target of 25% of all packaging to be reusable or refillable by 2025. We have the answers to the plastic pollution crisis, the public supports them, now all we need is the political will.”
Maja Darlington, Campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said:
“After years of talking about being a global leader in tackling plastic pollution, the government has managed to crack down on a grand total of four single-use plastic items and microplastics. The UK public has long been willing and ready to move on from polluting throwaway plastic. Is the government going to catch up and get on with reducing all single-use plastics by 50% by 2025?”