Government ban on single-use plastics in England

13 September, 2023

The department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have announced that from 1 October 2023, businesses must no longer supply, sell or offer certain single-use plastic items in England. This follows on from the ban on plastic straws and drink stirrers in 2020.

The ban includes all single-use plastic cutlery, trays, plates, bowls, and balloon sticks, as well as banning the use of certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers used to supply food which is ready to consume.

The ban on these items will include:

  • online and over-the-counter sales and supply
  • items from new and existing stock
  • all types of single-use plastic, including biodegradable, compostable and recycled
  • items wholly or partly made from plastic, including coating or lining

‘Single use’ means the item is meant to be used only once for its original purpose.

If you continue to supply banned single-use plastics after 1 October, you could be fined. It's therefore very important that businesses either source re-usable alternatives to the banned single-use items and/or use products made from different materials.

There are some exemptions to the ban, depending on the item...

Plates, Bowls and Trays:

From 1 October you must not supply single-use plastic plates, trays and bowls to members of the public.


You can still supply single-use plastic plates, bowls and trays if either of the following apply:

  • you are supplying them to another business
  • the items are packaging (pre-filled or filled at the point of sale)

Examples of this type of packaging include:

  • a pre-filled salad bowl or ready meal packaged in a tray
  • a plate filled at the counter of a takeaway
  • a tray used to deliver food.

Cutlery and Balloon Sticks

From 1 October you must not supply single-use plastic cutlery or balloon sticks.

There are no exemptions to this ban.

Polystyrene Food and Drink Containers

From 1 October you must not supply ready-to-consume food and drink in polystyrene containers. This includes in polystyrene cups.

Polystyrene means expanded and extruded polystyrene.


You can still supply food or drink in polystyrene containers if it needs further preparation before it is consumed. For example, further preparation could mean:

  • adding water
  • microwaving
  • toasting.


Local authorities will carry out inspections to make sure the rules are being followed.

Inspectors can:

  • visit a shop or store
  • make test purchases
  • speak to staff
  • ask to see records

If you break the law, inspectors can order your business to cover the cost of the investigation. If you can show that you did everything you reasonably could to avoid breaking any rules, this would be an acceptable defence.

Understanding the Environmental Impact

It's estimated that England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery each year, and 721 million single-use plates. Only 10% of these items are recycled.

Plastic pollution takes hundreds of years to break down and inflicts serious damage to our oceans, rivers and land. It is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, from the production and manufacture of the plastic itself to the way it is disposed.

It is expected that banning these items will have a significant impact in reducing plastic waste and littering in England. 

How we can help...

We've been working closely with our members and multiple packaging suppliers to source and suggest more sustainable, cost-effective alternatives, as well as using our first-hand experience as operators to recommend new and innovative ways of working to streamline and improve operations while ensuring compliance.

If you'd like to discuss your packaging requirements, please get in touch and your local Procurement Manager will be able to help.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Government website.

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