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Single Use Plastics

What are single use plastics?


Single-use plastics (SUPs) are goods that are made from fossil fuel-based chemicals and are meant to be disposed of right after use, often in minute. Examples of these include bags, bottles, and straws that are used only once and then discarded, often ending up in landfills or oceans. SUPs account for half of the 300 million tons of plastic produced every year, but only 10-13% of them are recycled, creating a huge environmental and climate problem. Even when recycled, things like plastic bottles are most often recycled into non-recyclable products, such as carpets and synthetic clothing, meaning that recycling is only effective once before the plastic becomes permanent waste.



Why are SUPs bad?


Single-use plastics are bad because they are not biodegradable. They do not break down, instead, they break up into microplastics, which damage the environments they’re exposed to. They can enter the food chain and water sources are toxic to any species that accidentally consumes them, and they can entangle animals, preventing them from eating or swimming. SUPs also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of their life cycle, from extraction of raw materials to transportation, manufacturing, and disposal.



What is being done?


A new ban introduced by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been introduced in the UK to combat SUPs. It will affect single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers. This ban will be introduced from October 2023, allowing businesses time to prepare.


According to estimates, England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery and 721 million single-use plates per year, but only 10% are recycled. If 2.7 billion pieces of cutlery were lined up they would go round the world over eight and a half times (based on a 15cm piece of cutlery).


From October, people won’t be able to buy these products from any business - this includes retailers, takeaways, food vendors and the hospitality industry.


Plastic pollution takes hundreds of years to break down and inflicts serious damage to our oceans, rivers and land.


DEFRA has also banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care, restricted the use of straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and introduced the carrier bag charge, which has successfully cut sales by over 97% in the main supermarkets. Before these bans, it was estimated straws, stirrers and cotton buds collectively contributed to around 5.7% of marine litter. After the ban, the Great British Beach Clean 2021 reported cotton bud sticks had moved out of the UK’s top ten most common beach litter items.



For more information, go to more information for some helpful links.

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