What’s happened to the ban on single-use plastics since Covid-19?

23 Sep 2020 • 6 minute read

Back in 2019, the European parliament voted to ban several single-use plastic items by 2021. This included items such as cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers and was part of the action against the plastic pollution crisis that has been affecting our oceans, rivers, marine and animal life.

They also announced they would be looking at reducing plastic food containers and lids for hot drinks. What’s more, by 2025 they agreed plastic bottles would be made out of 25% recycled content, with 90% being reached by 2029.

We are now fast approaching 2021 – so it’ll be interesting to see how the landscape has changed.

What about in the UK?

Despite Brexit negotiations and talks of the transition period (hello!), the UK followed suit with the plastic ban announcing that all plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers were to be banned in England by April 2020.

This was said to have cutback an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 300 million stirrers and two billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds used in England annually.   

Despite it all looking positive back in 2019, in April 2020 Defra pushed the ban to October 2020 in response to a number of setbacks and challenges that arose from Covid-19.

What has the Coronavirus done to change the fight against single-use plastic?

Well, 2020 has been a complicated year for everyone – that’s needless to say. But coronavirus caused the need for extra actions to be taken to reduce risk and increase hygiene measures. This led to a rapid escalation of single-use plastic in PPE and Perspex screens aka “sneeze guards”.

This caused the government to delay their previously agreed measures as demand for single-use equipment, particularly in hospitals, were dramatically increased. In fact, Perspex International Limited increased the manufacturing of their product of PERSPEX clear acrylic by 300% in order to meet demands in just one month!

What is not clear is what is going to happen to all of these screens when the pandemic is finally over. We were already hearing of many stories where PPC is ending up in oceans back in March at just the start of the pandemic.

The government also suspended the 5p plastic bag fee for all online deliveries during the lockdown, despite bag sales being cut by 95% since the charge was introduced.

Restrictions on travel caused oil prices to crash, which pushed the cost of virgin plastic way below recycled plastic, making it a hard case for businesses to choose the latter. Particularly, when the economy is facing an uncertain future.

What’s more, where pubs and restaurants changed their business model from ‘indoor’ to ‘takeaway’ in order to stay open, the use of plastic cups and containers increased too.

So, what can we do?

 Even in uncertain times, there are some small steps we can take as individuals to help reduce single-use plastic in our day-to-day lives.

  • Wear a reusable mask – many reusable masks are being made available, which allow them to be washed and re-worn, to avoid single-use items. 
  • Reusable cups – bring your own mug or reusable coffee cup to places such as Costa or Starbucks, to decrease the amount of plastic being used.
  • Be mindful of where you shop – local shops will often provide more plastic-free options than large supermarkets, so try to shop locally and avoid plastic where you can.
  • Bring your own bag – most people will do this anyway, but it’s still important to try and bring your own ‘bag-for-life’ to decrease any plastic bags being distributed

It’s not all bad!

There have been some serious positives that have come out of Covid-19 and lockdown in 2020 when looking at the eco and environmental impact.

Despite travel restrictions indirectly pushing down the cost of plastic, reduced traffic both on the ground and in the air has made a significant change to pollution levels.

Emissions in London fell by almost 50% during lockdown, and air traffic was also reduced causing much less waste. The airline industry, in particular, is known for using an abundance of single-use plastic.

Despite some silver linings, there have been calls for a ‘green recovery’ now the lockdown restrictions are slowly being lifted and relaxed across most of the UK.

What’s next for single-use plastic?

Well, for now, the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in the UK by October 2020 seems to be still going ahead in England. Wales has even gone the extra mile by covering a longer list that was introduced by the EU directive including balloon sticks and food and drinks containers.

In addition to this, the plastic bag charge will now increase to 10p for all UK retailers by April 2021 – this includes all smaller businesses too. They are no longer exempt. Plans to tax plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content are still going ahead and to be implemented by April 2022.

We’ve also seen in the news plenty of announcements from businesses introducing new plastic policies and introductions towards recycled plastics. Companies such as L’Oréal and Maybelline have introduced products made from 100% recycled plastic and many supermarkets are launching refillable bottles of cleaning spray, with Aldi leading the way.

Even Lego has announced their move to ditch single-use plastic in their packaging from 2021!

Our fight against plastic – Green Gift Cards

Green Gift Cards is dedicated not just to driving change, but also to increasing public awareness around eradicating single and limited use plastics to help tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

We make gift cards that are not only greener but cheaper and quicker to produce so there’s no viable reason for anyone to choose a plastic alternative. All our cards are made from paperboard, which comes from sustainable and renewable sources – making them 100% recyclable and compostable.

Graham Lycett, Managing Director of Green Gift Cards, comments “In the battle to slow down the devastating environmental impact of the plastic that fills our modern, busy lives, we’re focused on just one very small contributor to the plastic pollution crisis – cards.

By developing a truly viable green alternative to single and limited use plastics cards, we are playing our part and helping retailers of all sizes, from single sites and start-ups to the big high street brands, to make the switch to greener materials. In doing so, we can help to reduce the amount of hard-to-manage plastic waste entering our already inadequate waste management systems in the UK.”

He continues “The COVID pandemic has set the plans to reduce plastics across multiple sectors back but we believe that if leaders across different industries continue to innovate and develop sustainable alternatives that are easily understood by consumers and business alike, then slowly we can all help to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives.

We’re passionate about doing the right thing and my hope is that as we come through this COVID crisis, we can get back to dealing with the climate crisis.”

To find out more about Green Gift Cards and our fight towards a better future, you can visit https://www.greengiftcards.co.uk/about-us to find about more about what we do and our approach.

If you’re interested in going green with your gift cards, do not hesitate to give us a call on 01794 725 480 or get in touch.






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