The government has announced that a ban on some single-use plastics will come into effect in the UK from October.
To tackle the growing plastic problem, takeaways, restaurants and cafes must stop using disposable plastic cutlery, plates and bowls.
Green groups welcomed the move, but said it could go further in sending the packaging to landfill.
The British Takeaway Campaign told BBC News that businesses need more support to implement this.
Andrew Crook, who runs a fish and chip shop in Lancashire and is vice president of the British Takeaway Campaign, suggests that fish and chips restaurants and other takeaways will become more expensive as smaller companies will have to pass higher packaging costs to consumers.
According to estimates by the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs, the UK uses around 2.7 billion disposable cutlery, most of it plastic, and 721 million disposable plates a year.
“We believe we will do our part for the environment, but many small businesses just hold on,” said Mr. Crook.
He says plastic-free packaging is now more common in takeaways, but can cost 12p more per item.
At a London kebab shop, Ibo says it’s worrying that rising bills and fewer customers are splashing out on burgers, kebabs and chips.
“It will cost us more to change the packaging. I’m not a fan of plastic, I wouldn’t use it if I had a choice. But how else can we pack our kebabs?” He told BBC News.
Some cafes have already stopped using single-use plastic. “It’s been a very positive story for us,” explains Louise Lateur, managing director of the E5 bakery in London.
The cafe changed about five years ago and completely stopped using disposable coffee cups in 2021. It now uses a mix of compostable packaging and reusable cups or takeaway boxes.
At the counter selling pastries, bread, and lunch, Helen Vandenhaute shows me the stackable “tiffin boxes” used for takeout. Customers buy the cans, order takeout, and return the can next time.
At first tin cans were “quite popular”, but now they are not in heavy use. Helen suggests that customers still value convenience.
Disposable plastic ban:
Includes disposable plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and some polystyrene cups and food containers.
From October 2023, retailers, takeaways, food vendors and the hospitality industry will not be allowed to sell them.
No wet wipes or sachets – but the government says it’s considering measures to address them
Scotland and Wales introduce similar legislation in 2021
Because compostable packaging is more expensive, “we’re more careful about what we use the take-out box for, so I guess that’s how we reduce waste,” explains Helen.
A cargo bike is parked at the front door as he shows me around. Danilo Ponzetta takes a large box of reusable cups and loads them on the bike.
E5 encourages customers to bring their own cups, but those who forget can take advantage of a newly installed service by Reuser, one of the few companies in London to offer it.
Customers download an app and scan the cup and must return the cup to the cafe or pay a fee within 10 days of drinking their coffee. Collect the glasses, take them to the cleaning, and return to the cafe.
CEO Andrew Matthews explains that this has saved nearly 60,000 discarded coffee cups from the landfill.
Helen says clients were initially put off by the extra steps. “But people are usually happy when they get over the barrier of a new system—here it’s become normal,” she says.
Ms. Lateur says the risks to the transition are daunting and recommends that the government provide more incentives for businesses to make them more environmentally friendly.
“Everyone needs to remember that all single-use products, whatever the material, have an environmental impact,” said Helen Bird of the climate action NGO WRAP, adding that more measures will be taken in the coming months for other packaging.
“This announcement is indeed on the fringes of a huge problem,” commented Greenpeace, urging the government to set targets for supermarkets to submit reuse plans.
Defra says it’s considering introducing a Deposit Refund Program for beverage containers.