What we can do at home to add to impact of coming single-use plastics ban

Service improvement officer Jenny Lowes looks at the challenges and opportunities around single-use plastics and what we can all do to help.

So far this year the government has announced it will introduce legislation (subject to the completion of parliamentary processes) to ban the supply of single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, expanded and extruded polystyrene food and drinks containers, including cups, in England from 1 October – so businesses should start to prepare.

Hopefully, this action will go some way to tackle the single-use culture and encourage more reusable alternatives.

According to estimates, England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery — most of which are plastic — and 721 million single-use plates each year. Plastic cutlery was in the top 15 most littered items in the country by count in 2020.

These bans will build on previous efforts to eliminate avoidable plastic waste, including:

  • bans on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products announced in 2018
  • restrictions on the supply of single-use plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds in 2020
  • plastic Packaging Tax in April 2022 – a tax of £200 per tonne on plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into, the UK that does not contain at least 30 per cent recycled plastic
  • the minimum charge for a single use carrier bag was increased from 5p to 10p to all retailers in May 2021

At home, we can all do our bit by choosing reusable over single-use and then recycling anything that can’t be reused. I was a bit sceptical over the figure that 12 per cent of all rubbish was plastic wrap and bags from the latest waste analysis at Allerton waste recovery park, but once you start collecting you soon realise that it’s easily this amount compared to your other rubbish in the bin.

We have a new postcard label to identify what can be recycled at the supermarkets. Our Rotters are giving this out at events. See which events the Rotters will be visiting.

Some councils are trialling collecting this material at the kerbside, so it will be coming to North Yorkshire at some point but not just yet.

Still on the topic of single-use, research has shown that more than 1.3 million single-use vapes are discarded every week, enough to cover 22 football pitches a year, contributing to an environmental disaster in the making. Vaping is a growing phenomenon in the UK and more than half of all single-use vapes sold are needlessly thrown away. Alongside the loss of precious materials, the main issue associated with vapes is that each can combust if damaged or crushed. Disposable vapes contain a lithium battery, which when crushed has a strong potential to catch fire at household waste recycling centres or commercial transfer stations or in the back of refuse collection vehicles.

Vapes can be recycled at all our household waste recycling centres with the small electrical equipment, but more dedicated disposal points at retailers and, sadly, even school premises may be needed to change the current mindset for disposal as these vapes are currently being discarded the same way as traditional cigarette ends. I am sure there will be more work and challenges to come with vapes over the next year.