Following a Government consultation, which received 53,329 responses, DEFRA has announced a ban on single-use plastics. Of the total respondents, the ban received overwhelming support, with 95% in favour of a prospective ban. As a result of this consultation, DEFRA has introduced draft legislation to ban the supply of single-use plastics in England and these are intended to come into force on 1 October 2023 (subject to parliamentary approval).
The Environmental Protection (Plastic Plates etc. and Polystyrene Containers etc.) (England) Regulations 2023 (the Single-Use Plastics Regulations) will include bans on single-use plastics as follows:
- Plates, trays and bowls (Regulation 3)
- Cutlery and balloon sticks (Regulation 4)
- Expanded and extruded polystyrene food and drinks containers – including cups (Regulation 5).
Offences under the Single-Use Plastics Regulations may result in both civil sanctions and criminal proceedings, which may include:
- A ‘variable monetary penalty’ capped at 10% of annual turnover in England of the person on whom it is imposed (Regulation 9 and Schedule 1, Part 1);
- Criminal proceedings where a person does not comply with a stop notice, which could result in a fine and/or:
- summary conviction a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months; or
- two years imprisonment on conviction of an indictment.
The Single-Use Plastics Regulations also contain the following provisions of note:
- a possible due diligence defence for suppliers (Regulation 6);
- a time limit on prosecution of either three years after the offence, or within 12 months of the prosecutor having knowledge of the offence (Regulation 7);
- powers of entry for examination by an enforcement officer (Regulation 10); and
- publication of information about enforcement action (this exposes companies to reputational damage) (Regulation 11).
The Single-Use Plastics Regulations will have a significant impact on all businesses that supply or sell goods incorporating single-use plastics. Companies have until 1 October 2023 to review their inventory and for suppliers to bring themselves up to speed with the Single-Use Plastics Regulations, which may not be an insignificant endeavour. We will be keeping a close eye on the pending parliamentary approval of the Single-Use Plastics Regulations. Read more on this topic in our content on COP27, where the subject of problematic waste proved an important area of discussion.