The ban on single-use plastic and what this means for your business

The Government has announced that certain single-use plastics will be banned in England later this year. This follows a consultation carried out, which ran from November 2021 to February 2022. The results of this consultation were published in January 2023 and follow similar laws being passed in Scotland and Wales.

Small hospitality businesses should be aware of this upcoming change and what it means for them. Read this blog to find out more.

What plastics will be banned and to whom will the ban apply?

The ban on single-use plastics will cover single-use plastic:

  • plates
  • trays
  • bowls
  • cutlery
  • certain types of polystyrene cups
  • certain types of polystyrene food containers

It will not apply to any plates, trays and bowls used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items.

More details on the types of single-use plastics covered by the ban will be provided in due course.

It is important to note that the ban on single-use plastics will not apply to stores, supermarkets and manufacturers of these types of single-use plastics. It will, however, apply to other businesses like retailers, food vendors (including takeaway businesses) and the wider hospitality industry.

When is the ban coming into effect?

The ban is expected to come into effect in October 2023. By delaying the ban until the Autumn, hospitality businesses, restaurants, cafés and takeaways are expected to have sufficient time to prepare.

Why are single-use plastics being banned?

Estimates indicate that 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery (mostly made from plastic) and 721 million single-use plates are used in England per year. However, only 10% are recycled after use. Further, in 2020, single-use plastic cutlery was among the 15 most littered items in England.

Plastic is a major contributor to environmental pollution as it takes hundreds of years to degrade. Plastic also seriously damages and pollutes oceans, rivers and land and contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases.

By banning single-use plastics, the Government hopes that it will reduce plastic waste and littering in England by reducing the number of plastic items that are used and then thrown away.

The move to ban single-use plastic in England also brings England in line with Scotland and Wales, where similar laws were introduced (or will be introduced) in 2022 and later in 2023 respectively.

What does the ban mean for my business?

If you operate a business that sells food to customers (eg a restaurant, cafe, takeaway business or food truck), you will likely be affected by the ban. This means that you will need to find an alternative to any plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene containers you use.

Before the ban comes into effect in October, consider making an inventory of the items you’ll need to change along with any information about possible replacements and their costs. Alternative solutions you may consider include:

  • using biodegradable alternatives (eg those made from bamboo or cardboard)
  • encouraging customers to bring their own reusable containers and cutlery
  • offering a discount or incentive to people who bring their own reusable containers

You can find some tips on alternatives to single-use plastics on the Refill website. Refill is a campaign to reduce plastic waste.

Be aware that alternatives to single-use plastic may be more costly, so it is essential that you carefully plan and budget. This may also involve raising your prices. If you do, it is a good idea to let customers know in advance, for example, by sending a marketing email explaining how and why your prices will increase. It’s a good idea to include information about the environmental benefits motivating the changes, to help get customers’ support.


For more information on making your business sustainable, read How to make your business environmentally sustainable and How to create an environmentally sustainable workplace.

To learn more about the upcoming ban, read the Government’s press release. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer.


Rebecca Neumann