Litter and pollution in the sea Mranaked

Our seas are facing climate and biodiversity crises, partly fuelled by the single-use plastic problem. We've got to switch to using more sustainable products, and UK governments need to do more to bring in legislation that bans single-use plastic being produced.

The problem

Our Beachwatch data shows thousands of single-use plastic items are found on UK beaches each year.


litter items found per 100m of beach surveyed at last year's Great British Beach Clean



of beach cleans last year found face masks and PPE



drop in plastic bags found on UK beaches since 5p charge was introduced

Litter on a beach AfriramPOE

Credit: AfriramPOE via Shutterstock

Plastic products themselves aren't the only part of the problem. With the shift away from fossil fuel as an energy source, chemical companies are switching to extracted oil and gas to produce plastic. This switch is producing increased amounts of chemicals which often end up polluting our ocean. Product design needs to take into account the carbon, plastic and chemical footprint - particularly when it comes to the use of ‘forever chemicals’.

We want all UK nations to go further than the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive. We want a ban on plastic wet wipes and cigarette filters, and correct labelling of products - including biodegradability and other 'green claims'.

What's happening in England

Bans in place

In October 2020, England banned single-use plastic cotton buds, stirrers and straws.

In 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 was introduced in October 2023.

Deposit Return Scheme

Also in January 2023, the UK Government unveiled its plans to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in England by 2025. This scheme in England will include plastic bottles and lids, and aluminium cans, but excludes glass.

Plastic bags in the ocean Rich Carey

Credit: Rich Carey via Shutterstock

We’re calling for the government to set targets for reuse, because they're not currently included in the Environment Bill. We’ll continue to lobby the government and will try to move England to a society with reuse at its heart.

What's happening in Scotland

Bans in place

Scotland has banned the manufacture and sale of microbeads and single-use plastic cotton buds and in April 2021, increased the plastic carrier bag charge to 10p. From 1st June 2022, Scotland implemented a ban on some of the most problematic single-use plastics.

Bans being discussed

The Scottish Government has committed to meet, or go further than, the Single-Use Plastic (SUP) Directive. We’ll be holding them to this.

Nurdles in hand during GBBC on Sand Bay Natasha Ewins

Credit: Natasha Ewins

Deposit Return Scheme

Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme is now due to be implemented along with the rest of the UK in October 2025. The scheme will include plastic bottles and cans and we are still campaigning for glass to be included.

Circular economy

We called for a Circular Economy Bill to bring ‘reuse and refill’ into the heart of creating a circular economy for Scotland. As part of that, we’d like to see mandatory labelling on products containing plastic so consumers can make informed choices. As of 2023 a Circular Economy Bill started to make it's way through the Scottish Parliament. We also want to see the upcoming PAS standard on pre-production pellets/nurdles to be made a legal requirement.

What's happening in Wales

Bans in place

In late 2022, Wales became the latest nation to take a stance on the plastic problem, by legislating against a comprehensive list of single-use plastic items. The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Bill was passed by the Senedd in December 2023 and includes items such as plastic cotton bud sticks, thin plastic carrier bags, and products made of oxo-degradable plastic.

Picking up plastic bottle on a beach Triocean

Credit: Triocean via Shutterstock

Deposit Return Scheme

In January 2023, Wales announced plans to introduce a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) by 2025. The scheme will include plastic bottles and lids, aluminium cans, and glass.