New report shows how England is falling behind the rest of the EU in key environmental standards

A new report from the Rethink Plastic alliance in collaboration with the Break Free From Plastic movement shows that whilst important progress has been made by the vast majority of EU countries in banning the most polluting single-use plastics, England is falling behind. 

Despite Scotland and Wales joining other EU countries in adopting plans and legislation to ban the top 15 most polluting single-use plastics such as plastic cutlery, plates and polystyrene food packaging, one year after the rules were adopted across Europe, England still has no draft legislation in place. Campaigners say that England is now at risk of being the only country in Europe to not have a ban on these top polluting plastic items.

The warning comes on the back of a newly released annual assessment by the Rethink Plastic alliance and members of the Break Free From Plastic movement that details the progress of other EU countries. With Scotland implementing a ban this summer and Wales having now published its draft bill that comes before the Senedd in the coming months, England is falling behind even the worst offenders, which are dubbed “laggards” in the report. Italy for example, who is singled out in the report for failing to include bioplastics in its ban of these single-use plastic items has, at least, banned some of the most polluting conventional plastics.

The warning comes from the not-for-profit, City to Sea, who has slammed the lack of action from Defra in delivering on its promise to ban some of the most polluting single-use plastics – such as plastic cutlery, plates and polystyrene food packaging all of which are covered in the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive. In February 2022, City to Sea joined forces with Greenpeace and campaigners 38 Degrees to hand in a petition with over 117,000 signatures to Downing Street demanding a complete ban.

More than 50,000 of those who signed the petition also went on to respond to the Defra consultation, demanding that the most polluting single-use plastic items should be banned. The vast majority of respondents backed a ban on all the items being considered – such as cutlery, plates and polystyrene takeaway containers – with support at 96% or above across the board. Crucially, almost two thirds (64%) thought the government needed to introduce the ban without delay.

Steve Hynd, Policy Manager at City to Sea, commented:

“It’s frankly embarrassing that we’re having to, once again, point out that England is at risk of falling further behind the rest of Europe on key environmental standards post Brexit. We were promised a “Green Brexit” but have so far little to illustrate this. Instead, all we have is delay and political instability leaving the markets uncertain about if and when this ban will occur.

“Their tardiness stands in contrast to the findings of today’s report that details how other European countries are progressing at phasing out the most polluting single-use items and in some cases like Sweden, Greece, Portugal and Ireland going much further. England desperately needs to catch up and get this important piece of legislation in place.”

He continued, “We’re now over a year since EU member states needed to adopt this ban and other measures in the Directive. Even taking into account the recent political turmoil, I am lost for words at how 8 months after the close of the consultation its results are not even public. It’s leaving us trailing behind the rest of Europe when we could and should be leading in tackling plastic pollution. Now is the time for the new Secretary of State, Ranil Jayawardena, to take this up personally and make sure it is delivered as his government has repeatedly promised.”

A copy of the report can be read here.



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