Single-use plastic cutlery ban: what small businesses need to know

Restaurant owner preparing takeaway food in plastic containers

Hospitality businesses using single-use plastic cutlery and plates will need to find alternatives when a new ban comes into force in England.

The government has confirmed that single-use plastic items, including polystyrene trays and cups, are to be banned in England in a move to reduce pollution.

The new legislation will apply to restaurants and takeaways, following a similar ban in Scotland and Wales.

When is the ban coming in?

From October 2023, the ban on some single-use plastics will come in for hospitality businesses, restaurants, cafés, and takeaways.

Results of a consultation were published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on 14 January.

The news follows an initial consultation on the issue of single-use plastics, which ran from 20 November 2021 to 12 February 2022.

What does this mean for small businesses?

If you run a restaurant, takeaway business, or mobile food van business, you’ll soon need to find alternatives to any plastic plates, cutlery, and polystyrene containers you use for your business.

Be sure to do an inventory of the items you’ll need to change and cost up alternatives.

For example, you could:

  • encourage customers to bring their own cutlery and containers
  • use biodegradable alternatives like bamboo or cardboard
  • offer a discount to people who bring their own coffee cups

Alternatives can be more expensive, so make sure you budget and plan for any changes to your supply costs.

If you need to increase your prices, read our guide for tips on how to tell your customers.

Refill – a campaign to reduce plastic waste – has more useful tips on alternatives to plastic for businesses.

Who does the single-use plastic cutlery ban apply to?

When it comes in, the law will only apply to hospitality businesses (mainly affecting takeaways). It won’t cover shops, supermarkets, and the manufacturers of these types of plastic.

Why is plastic cutlery being banned?

Estimates suggest that every year England uses 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of single-use cutlery — most of which are plastic — but only 10 per cent are recycled after use.

Plastic has been identified as a major problem when it comes to pollution in the environment as it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.

The new legislation hopes to go some way to tackle the issue of plastic waste by reducing the number of items that are only used once before being thrown away.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey told the Mail on Sunday: “This new ban will have a huge impact to stop the pollution of billions of pieces of plastic and help to protect the natural environment for future generations.”

Plastic straws were banned in 2020.

Waitress preparing takeaway food in a restaurant

The ban will include polystyrene cups and containers. Photograph: cherryandbees/

Sustainable packaging

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Given the substantial costs facing businesses, it’s important that alternative markets for sustainable packaging are given time to develop for venues to be supported as they transition to greener alternatives.”

Small businesses are struggling with rising costs following the Covid-19 pandemic and soaring energy bills. Our cost of living hub has resources with information and support.

Read more news and guides for small businesses

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Photograph: DAVID/

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

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