Vegan catering van

Catering vans must prepare for the single use plastic ban

13 March 2023    |    By: Nathan Bentley

The catering industry and specifically mobile catering businesses in England and Wales are set to see some big changes in the coming months after an announcement from the government that will see the roll out of a ban on the use of some single use plastics. The ban is set to come into force in October 2023, meaning that by Autumn, any mobile catering businesses that use certain single use plastics will need to make changes to the way they prepare and serve their food in order to ensure they continue to operate within the law.

This move towards removing single use plastics is part of a UK wide drive to encourage all of us to live more sustainably. With eco-friendly alternatives to many single use plastic products now available, this will be a great way to bring all mobile catering businesses up to the same level when it comes to ensuring they are using sustainable products – something that appears to be more and more important to customers now too.

Catering businesses in Scotland and Northern Ireland have been subject to a single use plastics ban on similar products for some time now after their governments rolled out bans in 2022 and 2020 respectively.

The final ‘list’ of banned products is yet to be decided and it’s worth noting that once the ban comes into force, the production of these products will cease too. So far, the Nationwide Caterers Association has highlighted that the final list of products covered by the ban is set to include

  • Plastic plates
  • Plastic trays
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Plastic bowls
  • Polystyrene cups
  • Plastic food containers

This will mean that for businesses not already doing so, sustainable alternatives will need to be used to serve food to customers, such as wooden cutlery, paper cups, paper plates and metal containers. Lids used to secure food packaging will also need to be made from sustainable materials.

Ban on single use plastic

It’s worth noting that this ban doesn’t just impact the catering industry, it impacts any business that uses single use plastics as part of their product or service. It mostly impacts the manufacturers of such products, however over the past few years we have seen manufacturers of packaging and other such products shift towards creating sustainable and environmentally friendly products in a bid to keep up with both demand from their customers and with government legislation. They know about this ban and are altering their own production accordingly.

Worldwide within the catering industry, there’s still a huge amount of single use plastic waste produced which is contributing to the pollution of the world’s oceans. According to this report by The Guardian in 2021, plastic products from takeaway food and drinks dominate the litter in the oceans, with just 10 product types making up 75% of all the plastic waste found. Unfortunately, even if businesses are handling and disposing of single use plastics responsibly, there’s no way to guarantee their customers will do likewise, evidenced by this report.

Research published in the Nature Sustainability Journal analysed over 12 million data points to produce a comprehensive list of the types of waste that is polluting the world's oceans. Within the research, the following volumes of plastic waste directly related to the global food and drinks industry have been reported:

  • Plastic bottles made up almost 12% of waste.
  • Food containers and cutlery made up over 9% of waste.
  • Food wrappers made up almost 9% of waste.
  • Plastic caps and lids made up over 6% of waste.

With this data in mind, it’s clear to see that there is a need for a wider collective effort to ban single use products in the catering industry, a ban which starts with businesses on UK soil, who will now need to start sourcing alternative products to serve their food and drinks in.

This is an opportunity for mobile catering businesses in the UK to lead by example and to contribute to real global change when it comes to championing sustainability and helping to clean up the world’s oceans, in the hope that the larger corporations globally will follow suit and cause real change to happen.

Nathan Bentley
Article by
Nathan is a content writer at Premierline with over 5 years’ experience, specialising in news and current affairs which impact small businesses across various industries. Nathan is passionate about discussing topics that affect the workplace, covering everything from human resources, to emerging and disruptive technologies. In the past, Nathan has written for a number of different businesses, working within a wide range of industries from financial technology to hospitality and even men’s fashion.
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