The government said disposable plastic plates, cutlery and a range of other items will be banned in the UK from October.
The Environment Ministry said a new ban would also cover single-use plastic bowls, trays, and certain polystyrene cups and food containers, as the government seeks to reduce plastic’s “destructive” impact on the environment.
Department officials said the UK uses around 2.7 billion disposable cutlery a year, of which only 10% is recycled.
The change will mean the public will no longer be able to purchase banned items from retailers, takeaways and food vendors from October this year.
Under the new legislation, the ban is expected to be enforced through civil sanctions – but there is also the possibility that repeated violations could result in a criminal offense.
“We all know the absolutely devastating effects that plastic can have on our environment and wildlife. We’ve listened to the public, and these new single-use plastic bans will continue our vital work to protect the environment for generations to come,” said Environment Minister Therese Coffey.
“I am proud of our efforts in this area: we have banned microbeads, restricted the use of straws, stirrers and cotton swabs, and our tote bag fee has successfully reduced sales in major supermarkets by over 97%.”
However, the ban will not apply to plates, trays and bowls used as packaging, which the Ministry calls “off the shelf prepackaged foodstuffs”.
The government is currently evaluating whether further measures are needed to target commonly thrown items such as wet wipes, tobacco filters and bags.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow also said the Government “will continue our ambitious plans for a deposit return scheme for beverage containers and consistent recycling collections in the UK”.
Nina Schrank, plastics campaign leader at Greenpeace UK, said: “This announcement really gnaws at the edges of a huge problem.
“Banning individual items might make good headlines for the Government, but the truth is it won’t get in the way of the staggering amount of plastic the UK produces each year.
“The government should announce reuse targets, which means supermarkets must do the same, and provide customers with reuse and refill solutions that eliminate the need for single-use packaging.
The export of overseas waste, which leads to open dumping in countries like Turkey, needs to be stopped urgently.
“We also need Defra to put an end to its culture of jitteriness and procrastination and finally bring in the long-promised bottle return plan that will stop billions of bottles and containers being thrown away every year.”
Paula Chin, senior policy adviser on consumption at the World Wide Fund for Nature, said the ban is an important step towards “bringing life” to the planet, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
The ban is a step forward in tackling the wave of plastic that is polluting our beaches, countryside, parks and rivers and threatening wildlife.
“However, unless we address the underlying issue and move away from the disposable culture, there is a risk that these items will be replaced by more disposable items made of different materials.
“We need to set goals to reduce consumption and facilitate the transition of businesses and homes to reuse and refill systems.
“This means introducing accessible deposit-return programs, harmonizing household recycling collections, and enabling manufacturers to take more responsibility for their packaging. Only by working together to protect nature can we bring our world back to life.”