June 19, 2024

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 favor 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 drink containers – including cups (Regulation 5).

Civil sanctions and criminal proceedings

Offenses 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:

a) summary conviction of a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months; or

b) two years imprisonment on conviction of an indictment.

The Single-Use Plastics Regulations also contain the following provisions of note:

  • a possible due diligence defense for suppliers (Regulation 6);
  • a time limit on the prosecution of either three years after the offense, or within 12 months of the prosecutor having knowledge of the offense (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 endeavor. We will be keeping a close eye on the pending parliamentary approval of the Single-Use Plastics Regulations.