Latest regulatory updates

Last updated 3 December 2020

Kurt Janson

Kurt Janson, Director of the Tourism Alliance, gives a monthly update on the latest regulatory changes affecting the hospitality industry. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in the Pink Book of Legislation, we regret that we cannot be responsible for any errors. Read our full disclaimer

Ban on some single-use plastics

The new Environmental Protection (Plastic Straws, Cotton Buds and Stirrers) (England) Regulations 2020 came into effect on 1 October 2020. They aim to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced in England by making it an offence to provide customers with three different types of single-use plastic products – straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers. The Regulations treat these different products in slightly different ways.

For plastic drink stirrers

  • It is an offence to sell or supply drink stirrers to end-users and businesses in England (so it is an offence for you to be sold stirrer by a supplier and for you to supply them to customers)

For cotton buds

  • It is an offence to sell or supply cotton buds to end-users in England, but they can still be supplied to businesses (so you could purchase cotton buds if you need them for a purpose such as cleaning fixtures and fittings, but it would be an offence to put them into a complimentary toiletry kit for customers)

For plastic straws

  • It is an offence to sell or supply plastic straws to end-users in England but, they can still be supplied to businesses.

However, there is an exemption to this regulation for catering establishments, which includes restaurants, pubs, bars and hotel dining rooms. If you are providing food and/or drink for immediate consumption, you are allowed to continue to provide customers with single-use plastic straws, provided that:

  • The straws are not kept in a place where they are visible to customers
  • The straws are not kept in a place where customers can access them, and
  • The straws are not offered or provided to customers unless requested by the customer.

So, you cannot serve a drink with a plastic straw in it or put out a box of straws for customers to help themselves, but you can provide one if a customer specifically asked it.

The regulations are enforced by local authorities who can inspect premises to make sure that businesses are complying and are able to levy fines on businesses that are found to be in breach of the regulations.

There are two other points to be aware of with the new regulations. First, if you have any stirrers, cotton buds or plastic straws that you purchased before 1 October 2020, then you have until 1 April 2021 to use this old stock.

Second, if you sell products such as cartons of drink with straws attached, you can continue to display and sell these products with the straws attached.