Throwing out single-use plastic – What you need to know

With sustainability becoming a priority for more businesses and consumers alike, single-use plastic has come under the microscope.

This is particularly true for sectors that use a lot of disposable items, such as quick-service catering or hospitality.

If your business supplies or sells single-use plastic to customers, then you need to stay up to date on the most recent changes to legislation to avoid prosecution or a significant fine.

Disposing of disposables

1 October 2023 saw the implementation of updated guidance from the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), outlawing the supply and sale of certain single-use plastic items to consumers.

You may not supply these single-use plastic items to consumers:

  • Plates, bowls or trays
  • Cutlery
  • Balloon sticks
  • Polystyrene food and drinks containers

or partially from plastic, if the item is single-use – defined as “intended to be used once for its original purpose”.

The current law also applies if the item:

  • Is made from biodegradable plastic
  • Comes from existing stock
  • Is sold online
  • Is coated or lined with plastic

If your business continues to supply, sell or offer single-use plastic items after 1 October, you may be fined upon inspection. Local authorities are permitted to carry out inspections by visiting your site, taking a test purchase or speaking to staff.

You may also be ordered to cover the cost of any subsequent investigations into your business.

Are there exemptions?

Certain items are exempt from current legislation under particular circumstances.

For example, you may supply plastic plates, bowls or trays to another business, or as part of an item that is pre-packaged at the point of sale.

The other notable exception is for polystyrene containers. For items that require further preparation – e.g. they need to be microwaved or toasted – you are still permitted to sell single-use containers.

The key takeaway from the new regulations is that you must do everything that you “reasonably can” to avoid breaking the rules.

Corporate responsibility

Rules to prevent the use of single-use plastic have placed much of the burden on businesses and corporate entities.

This means that it is your responsibility to prevent individual consumers from obtaining single-use plastic from your business.

In its current form, the law does not prevent you from using single-use plastic elsewhere within your business or by members of your staff.

How can we help?

The law surrounding single-use plastic is changing rapidly as the Government seeks to reduce landfill and protect the environment.

In order to stay compliant, you should seek advice from an experienced corporate law solicitor.

Our expert team can help you to abide by current legislation, stay up to date on new rules and minimise the financial burden of compliance. We can also support you through the appeal process if you feel you have been unfairly or unlawfully fined.

For further guidance, please contact our team today to find out how we can help you.

Posted in News, Newswire.