UKHospitality responds to government’s plastic straw ban

plastic, straws, government
23/04/2018 - 07:00
The government has announced its intention to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds at the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit.

The Prime Minister will also call on all other Commonwealth countries to join in the fight against plastic pollution.

Subject to the consultation, which the Environment Secretary will launch later this year, the government will ban the sale of these items in England.

This forms part of the wider government waste strategy.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use, however it’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation - we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic.”

In order to eliminate these items from use, the government will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt.

A recent study showing 8.5 billion plastic straws are thrown away each year in the UK.

Paul Connelly, managing director at purchasing company, Beacon, is “urging operators that the price is worth paying now to switch to alternatives to single-use plastic items including straws.”

He said: “Due to the recent increase in demand for paper and compostable straws, we are supporting our supply base in communicating their efforts in finding innovative alternative plastic offerings now, and show their commitment to this positive change.

“By focussing on this now we are able to make it easier for our customers to adapt and make the reduction of plastic straws an integral part of their business strategy, and to avoid potential ‘plastic shaming’ by customers.

“While we strongly encourage businesses to implement alternatives now to reduce pressure and costs if the ban comes into place, they must be prepared to invest in this change in the short-term, as alternative products may initially be more expensive.

“With demand currently outstripping supply, businesses should expect there to be limited price negotiations, as it is currently a sellers’ market. However, as the potential ban on single-use plastic becomes more integrated across business strategies, we predict that supply will catch up with demand, leading to more cost-effective solutions entering the market and supporting environmentally friendly behaviour.”

Connelly states that Beacon’s supplier, Bunzl Catering Supplies, has suggested a variety of different approaches that operators can take advantage of when it comes to offering an alternative to plastic straws. These include: offering paper straws rather than plastic straws; offering thick, clear straws made from PP to maximise chance of recycling; offering compostable straws; and introducing controlled-use straw dispensers, to reduce the frequency and quantity of straws being used.

Trade body UKHospitality has also responded to the government bid to cut plastic waste.

Commenting on the announcement, Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “It is disappointing that the government seem intent on a legislative approach, as the industry have already made good progress in reducing waste through voluntary measures. It is undeniable that this serious issue needs tackling, but with anything of this gravitas it needs to be considered and executed both effectively and realistically.

“This looks set to introduce yet another burden on hospitality margins with any additional cost coming on top of already high business rates and employment costs. 

“There is a large amount of government policy already being proposed in this particular area – deposit schemes, packaging reforms, and plastic taxes – and now with the move for an outright ban, there is a sense of confusion with overlapping government policy, regardless of the wider effects on UK businesses.

"The hospitality industry must do more to address the issue and provide solutions, share best practise and pledge to do more."

On May 10, UKHospitality will spearhead the sector’s efforts to tackle packaging waste with a sector-wide packaging event, Unpack the Future of Hospitality.

The event will be the next step in allowing the hospitality sector to unite to make a considerable contribution to cutting packaging waste.

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