UK Family Business British Family Business
Established 1868

Catering Equipment Supplier Showroom Over £2million of Stock
Available From Our Warehouse

Feefo logo

The Stephensons Guide to the UK Plastic Ban

The climate crisis has become increasingly prevalent in recent decades, and this has resulted in changes in legislation to help us do more for the environment. One big change hitting the hospitality and catering trade in the coming months will be a ban on single-use plastics.

Although a lot of businesses have already made the switch to eco-friendlier options, if you are still using single-use plastics as part of your operations, it's time to start preparing for the UK-wide ban that comes into effect from October 1st 2023.

However, this is already in place in some parts of the UK, so we have put together a quick guide to help you make sense of this new (and at times confusing) legislation.

What's happening in the UK?

From October 2023, there will be a nationwide ban on single-use plastics in the UK. This includes PLA straws and CPLA cutlery. This is already in effect in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and has been since 2022. The ban will cover online and over-the-counter sales, items from new and existing stock, and all types of single-use plastics including compostable, recycled, and biodegradable.

England and Wales will both be included in this from autumn 2023.

Are there exemptions?

Yes, you can still use single-use plastic bowls, plates, and trays if you are supplying them to another business, they have been pre-filled before purchase, or are filled at the point of sale. For example, filling salad bowls to go into your shops fridges as part of a meal deal or grab-and-go options. This includes trays and bowls that are filled at food counters for customers to take away with them. 

There are no exemptions when it comes to cutlery, however, so you will need to switch to a resusable cutlery option or find an alternative disposable cutlery to plastic.

What about other plastic products?

Of course, single-use plastics aren't the only plastic products that are available, so if you're wondering what else is banned and where, here's a quick breakdown. 

  England Scotland Wales Northern Ireland

Oxo-degradable Plastics

No ban No ban Ban comes into force in autumn 2023 Ban in force since 2022
Polystyrene Lids for Cups and Containers No ban No ban Ban comes into force in autumn 2023 No ban
Expanded Polystyrene Cups and Containers Ban comes into force in October 2023, including extruded polystyrene Ban in force since 2022 Ban comes into force in autumn 2023 Ban in force since 2022


Are there expemtions for expanded/extruded polystyrene products?

The only exemption for supplying polystyrene containers in your establishment is if they contain food that requires further preparation before it is consumed. For example, adding water, toasting, or microwaving. 

Sign-posting plastic in products

Another thing to look out for is the rules surrounding sign-posting plastic in products, as they differ in the UK to EU legislation. 

Since 2021, the European Commission's Single Use Plastic Directive —a.k.a, SUPD— have ruled that any disposable products that are used and sold in the EU need to display a 'Plastic in Product' logo. This isn't just oil-based plastic plastics, but plant-based ones as well. 

This is where things can get confusing, and some products that are certified compostable and biodegradable will still display the 'Plastic in Product' graphic. This is why you should always check with suppliers to find out the details of these products and whether they are plant-based plastics or not.

The rules above apply to those selling and using these products in the EU, but what about the UK?

Having the 'Plastic in Product' logo is not currently required in England, Scotland, or Wales. It is required in Northern Ireland, however, and has been since 2022.

Again, if you want to know whether the disposable products you use contain plant-based plastics that are compostable and biodegradable, confirm this with your supplier. 

If you want to read more about this legislation and how it might impact your business operations, you can find more information from this press release from Defra and other resources on their pages.

Stephensons sells a range of excellent products to help you make the switch from single-use plastics in time for autumn 2023. If you'd like to learn more about what we have to offer, contact our sales team on 0161 483 6256 or email