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Is your business ready for the ban on single-use plastics?

The war on plastic pollution, and specifically single-use plastics (SUPs), is stepping up a gear. Legislation targeting dine-in and take-out restaurant brands and packaging producers is currently being developed and rapidly implemented around the world.

Single-use plastic has become a huge liability for businesses as litter visibility, NGO pressure, and increasing regulation is making it difficult for single-use packaging to be the reputational asset it once was.

What’s already in place?

France, Germany and China are some of the many countries that have introduced bans on certain types of problematic single-use plastic, including food and drinks containers, over-packaged goods, straws and cutlery.

The European Union has proved itself serious about the enforcement of this ban. In October 2022, it opened up legal proceedings against 11 member states for implementing the Single-Use Plastics Directive too slowly. Countries and companies that fail to comply risk facing hefty fines.

Most legal definitions include bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics. While there may be definition loopholes that some companies are taking advantage of, from the consumer’s point of view, a plastic is a plastic, so if you want to make claims, you need to be transparent and accurate.

The European Union has proved itself serious about the enforcement of single-use plastic ban. Countries and companies that fail to comply risk facing hefty fines

What policy changes are imminent?

In England:


From October 2023, there will be a ban on single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery and polystyrene cups and food containers.

The ban will not apply to pre-packaged food and plastic items used in eat-in and takeaway settings. However, the government is strongly encouraging businesses to explore how they reduce single-use items in general and promote the use of reusable systems instead.

Under the new legislation, it’s anticipated that the environment agency will enforce the ban through civil sanctions – but with the possibility of repeated breaches ending up in a criminal offence.

In Scotland:


Ahead of the game, Scotland’s Single Use Plastic ban became effective in August 2022.

It’s also in the process of bringing into force a Deposit Return System on drinks containers, charging consumers a 20p deposit, which is repaid when the container is returned. The scheme is due to go live in August of this year, but it’s turned into a political hot potato, and there are questions about whether the scheme will be derailed at the last minute.

In Ireland:


There has been a delay to the Latte Levy – a policy introducing a 20c fee on all single-use cups containing hot drinks. Under the new policy, vendors will need to register with the Collections Authority and submit a record of all beverages sold with the levy applied. Any business failing to charge or report the levy could face up to 12 months imprisonment and a £50k fine.

Ireland is also introducing a Deposit Return Scheme, which will go live in February 2024.

In The Netherlands:


Aligned with the EU Single Use Plastic Directive, certain single-use plastic items have already been banned. In addition, from the 1st of July this year, a levy will be placed on certain types of single-use packaging, and reusable alternatives need to be offered for takeaway and dine-in.

2024 will see the planned rollout of targeted bans on plastic drinks containers and food packaging, alongside mandatory use of reusables for dine-in restaurant customers. Targeted items include single-use plastic hot and cold drink cups, food containers and pre-portioned packs/sachets of condiments and sugar.

In the US:


Legislation varies from state to state, and even city to city. This variance has a lot to do with the fact there is currently no federal legislation for single-use plastics. The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act was introduced in 2020 and has been with the Senate for review since March 2021. Interest in single-use plastic bans, extended producer responsibility and ‘Bottle Bills’ (deposit return scheme) is increasing with a large number of states timetabling bills for 2023.

However, it can take years for a bill like this to pass at the federal level. Therefore, many states like California, Connecticut, New York and Hawaii have already pushed ahead and banned certain SUPs. But where a state chooses not to regulate, the decision falls to individual cities and counties. Even within progressive states like California, individual cities may decide to progress ordinances to ban items. For example, Los Angeles and San Diego banned polystyrene foam containers in early 2023; in San Diego, utensils and straws can only be offered if requested. This complex regulatory landscape makes it highly challenging for food and beverage businesses with multiple outlets across the country.

If you're a food or beverage retailer or brand or packaging producer supplying the industry, you need to be ahead of the game when it comes to compliance and regulatory requirements

What action do food, drink and packaging businesses need to take?

1:  Be clear about what product lines or packs are impacted.
2:  Make sure you have clarity on the specifics of the policy timelines.
3:  Think about how or what you can replace banned formats with.
4:  Conduct an impact analysis to fully grasp the carbon, operational, legislative, commercial and consumer impacts.
5:  Set aside resource and budget to explore the impacts and opportunities of reuse and refill, which can remove many of the regulatory risks associated with SUP.

How can Root help?

Doing nothing is not an option. If you’re a food or beverage retailer or brand or packaging producer supplying the industry, you need to be ahead of the game when it comes to compliance and regulatory requirements. If not, your business will suffer.

Root Packaging Audit is a great first step to help identify the risks across your packaging portfolio. The audit will give you the tools to build a policy-proof and commercially viable packaging strategy that will ensure you remain compliant across every territory your business operates within.

If you would like to discuss the challenges facing your business, schedule a call with a Root sustainability experts who can advise you on the steps you need to take.