Budleigh beach during Great British Beach Clean GBBC 2017 Andrew Brown

England latest UK nation to ban 'on the go' single-use plastics

2 minute read

Supported by our dedicated volunteers, we’ve been continually raising the profile of single-use plastic pollution through beach cleaning and surveying, and advocating for solutions like bans and charges.

Back in 2017, our Great British Beach Clean saw over 7,000 volunteers recording and removing litter from 339 beaches across the UK. This event highlighted the issue of ‘on the go’ single-use plastic, like cutlery and straws, which made up 20% of all litter found during the 2017 event.

Six years later, on 14th January 2023, the UK Government finally confirmed that England will introduce a ban on single-use items including plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers. The ban will be introduced in October 2023.

Meanwhile, a similar single-use plastic ban in Scotland has been in place since June 2022, with the first Deposit Return Scheme in the UK to begin in August of this year.

Legislation on food and drink related single-use plastics in Wales has also been confirmed, with the ban due to be in place by 'Autumn 2023’.

Northern Ireland have consulted on a single-use plastic ban, but so far, no regulations and no implementation has been confirmed.

Our annual Great British Beach Clean results are a helpful benchmark to see what impact government policies are having on the pollution we’re seeing on the UK coast. The latest single-use plastic bans have certainly had an impact on the pollution we’re finding each year, and we hope this latest announcement will be no different.

Lizzie Price, Beachwatch Manager

In 2018, results from the Great British Beach Clean highlighted that the issue of ‘on the go’ litter was far from solved. Cutlery, trays and straws were number 12 on the list of most common litter items and made up 1.4% of total litter found in England, with an average of 9 found for every 100 metres of beach surveyed.

Three years later, in 2021, the UK Government launched a consultation specifically in relation to food and drink related single-use plastics in England, which the latest ban is a result of.

Results from our most recent Great British Beach Clean in September 2022 show a shift in the most common items found, though ‘on the go’ food and drink litter remain a common sight. Cutlery, trays and plastic straws were ranked number 18 in the list of most common litter items found on beaches. 56% of beaches cleaned found cutlery, trays and straws.

The results from this year's Great British Beach Clean also revealed drinks-related litter featured in the top five most common items for each country, and came sixth overall for the UK. There is a solution to these types of pollution – implementing Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) throughout the UK. Scottish Government will be introducing its own DRS in August of this year and the rest of the UK should be taking note of this success and aim to follow suit.

Reducing single-use plastic pollution