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Who is policing the continuing sale of banned single use plastics by online retailers?


Following the single use plastic ban – which came into force in England on 1 October 2023 – the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) is asking why online retailers such as Amazon and eBay are still offering banned items for sale, and who is policing them to ensure the ban is enforced? More than 20 days after the ban was introduced, banned items including plastic bowls, trays, plates, cutlery, balloon sticks, and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) items – such as drink cups and food boxes – are still being openly sold direct to the public by Amazon, eBay, office suppliers and others. While single use plastic plates, bowls and trays may still be sold to businesses for use as packaging – on none of the reviewed websites is the sale of these items restricted to businesses.

EPS and XPS foamed cups and boxes, together with plastic cutlery, are banned without exemptions, so these items must not be offered for sale to either the public or to businesses.

In the period leading up to the legislation start date – and following an FPA investigation, which revealed there were many months’ of supplies still sitting in warehouses, takeaways and caterers – the FPA asked government for additional time for businesses to use up stocks, given the delayed and confusing information issued by Defra. The request was refused, as was a plea to allow banned items to be donated to charities to avoid unnecessary wastage of new, unused items. ‘FPA members adhere to a strict code of practice – including operating strictly within the laws of the countries in which they trade,’ said Martin Kersh, executive director of the FPA. ‘Consequently, our members are not supplying non exempted banned items to their trade customers, or to members of the public. It is disheartening to see Amazon, eBay and others exploiting this lack of supply by blatantly flouting the law.’ Preventing this illegal trade requires Trading Standards’ intervention. Aside from some Trading Standards’ communications being incorrect, its communications are aimed at small local businesses. Nowhere is it indicated that they intend cracking down – and imposing the legally required fines – on the major online marketplaces. Martin Kersh concluded, ‘Why should responsible members – who are abiding by the legislation and the FPA Code of Practice – lose out, while other, more unscrupulous traders benefit by continuing to sell banned items online? If not Trading Standards, the FPA would like to know who is policing and enforcing the single use plastics ban across these digital marketplaces?’

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