From 19 October 2023, the supply of specified single use plastics came into force on the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man was one of the first places in the British Isles to bring in legislation which banned all the items listed under the EU Plastics Directive, leading the fight against plastic pollution alongside jurisdictions such as Scotland.
Single use plastics represents an unsustainable use of oil, which is a finite resource. Many local businesses and organisations have already made the choice to remove unnecessary single use plastic items from their premises. Using single use plastic is unnecessary as alternatives are readily available. Reducing our use of these items can contribute to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The demand we create from plastics keeps driving production and imports of such goods.
Plastics causes direct impacts on marine species, such as tangling and choking, but they also break down to micro-plastic and toxins, which are infiltrating all levels of the food chain, creating a problem that may impact generations well into the future.
The plastic waste that is collected is either recycled or burnt, turning waste into electricity. However, some plastics find their way into the environment and it is important to tackle this issue and make littering socially unacceptable.
What items are banned under the regulations?
From 19 October 2023, the regulations prohibited the sale, distribution and supply of the following single-use plastic items:
- plastic carrier bags (with handles)
- straws (with necessary exceptions i.e. medical use)
- cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks)
- polystyrene food containers for immediate use
- polystyrene cups
- plastic stemmed cotton buds
- balloon sticks
- products made from oxo-degradable* plastics
- manufacture, sale and distribution of rinse-off personal care products that contain plastic micro beads
*oxodegradable are plastic with an additive that makes it break down into smaller pieces of plastic quicker, which is particularly damaging if it gets into the environment.
The regulations ban supply, not use. Organisations can be prosecuted for giving out or selling banned items, but individuals will not be prosecuted for using an item they've been given or sold. Businesses and charities cannot sell or give out these items.
The legislation includes exemptions for single-use plastic straws and cotton buds in certain circumstances, to make sure that those who need them for independent living or medical purposes can still access them. Such items will be available at pharmacies and catering establishments on request but not advertised.
Natural polymers that have not been chemically modified are exempt, as is compostable plastic which conforms to British Standard EN 13432.
These Regulations delivered the policy commitment in 'The Single Use Plastic Reduction Plan' for the Isle of Man Community, to prohibit the sale, distribution and supply of specific single use plastic items.
These regulations were agreed at Tynwald in October 2022, following public consultation, allowing a 12 month period before selling these items became an offence, allowing businesses using such items, to adapt their practices.
There are some exemptions to the ban, depending on the item which you can read more about in the Guidance here.
In 2022, 700 residents shared their views on the plan with 90% agreeing all items should be axed.
Regulations provided a year’s transitional period, to allow businesses and charities to use up existing stock and source suitable alternatives, all of which are readily available.
From 19 October 2023, you will no longer be able to sell or supply any of the listed items. Hopefully, you have come to the end of any stocks you hold of such items.
Leftover stocks can be retained for personal use (as the ban does not control possession) or disposed of responsibly through the correct waste stream - you should recycle them if possible and ensure they do not enter the environment.
Businesses supplying the single use plastic items after the enforcement date could be subject to a civil sanction such as a monetary fine.
A fine may be waived during a transition period, if the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture agrees a plan with any business with remaining banned stock, that has plans in place to move to compliant items within a reasonable period. This should avoid any usable products going to waste if you have alternative, compliant products ordered, and will be using up the last of your old stock within an agreed short period.
Choosing the right alternative for your business or charity is up to you, but here are some ideas:
- reusable items
- items made from compostable or renewable materials such as paper, card or wood
Speak to your supplier for ideas and beware of greenwashing - if you’re not sure if a product complies with the regulations, ask your supplier directly.
The Regulations ban unused plastic carrier bags made of lightweight plastic. A carrier bag has handles. Lightweight plastic is plastic with a thickness of less than 70 microns. Your supplier should be able to advise of the grade/thickness of plastic.
Bags should not be made of ‘oxodegradable’ plastic, unless they are an exempt bag. Such bags include chemical additives which, through oxidation, lead to the fragmentation of the plastic material into microfragments or to chemical decomposition. They may be marketed as degradable or biodegradable.
The following plastic carrier bags are exempt and can still be used when the regulations come in to effect:
- Returnable multiple reuse bag – a bag which is sold to the end user and which — (a) is intended to be returnable to the seller from whom it was purchased to be replaced free of charge; (b) is made from material the thickness of which is not less than 50 microns but not greater than 70 microns; and (c) disregarding the width of any gussets, or the height of any handles extending above the main body of the bag — (i) has a width and height greater (in each case) than 404 mm; and (ii) has a width or height greater (in either case) than 439 mm. To determine the size and thickness of your carrier bags, you must speak with your supplier.
- Compostable - to be deemed a ‘compostable plastic” the material must be certified to the standard of BS EN 13432. To determine if the material is compostable you must speak with your supplier.
- Unwrapped food/meat/seed or medicine bag – a bag intended to be used solely to contain the afore-mentioned products for use or consumption.
- Live aquatic creatures bag – a bag intended to be used solely to contain live aquatic creatures in water.
- Woven plastic bag - a bag the material of which is made by interlacing long threads passing in one direction with others at a right angle to them
- Transit goods bag - a bag which is intended to be used to carry goods in a transit place, i.e. liquids in airports.
You can also supply used bags, for reuse.
The following are NOT prohibited under the single use carrier bag restriction (only bags provided at the point of sale for immediate use are being banned)
- Rolls of bin bags
- Dog poo bags
- Rolls of food bags
Catering establishments and Retail pharmacy businesses may supply single use plastic straws on request but must not display or advertise them – note this is to ensure those who have access or disability needs have access to these items.
There is no requirement for customers to prove that they require a straw due to medical restrictions. If a customer requests a straw then businesses can provide one.
Alternatives to plastic straws can be provided, but consideration for alternatives must be considered and if they are supplied with a drink. For instance, pasta straws may be unsuitable to those who have a gluten allergy. The customer may not necessarily make this known if ordering a drink.
The supply of single use plastic straws that are packaging or come as part of the packaging of a drink not prohibited by the Regulations and can continue to be sold.
Cups made from (expanded) polystyrene or oxo-degradable plastic are prohibited by the ban.
The likes of the clear plastic drinking cups and an unexpanded polystyrene cup is not a ‘prohibited single use plastic item’ as only cups of expanded polystyrene are covered by the Schedule 1 list in the Regulations. Where an expanded polystyrene cup is provided, then the Regulations extend to the covers and lids.
The only exception to this is if they are made from oxo-degradable plastic, as defined in Schedule 1, as ‘products made from plastic materials that include additives which, through oxidation, lead to the fragmentation of the plastic material into microfragments or to chemical decomposition’ – products made from oxo-degradable plastic are within the list of ‘prohibited single use plastic items’ which came into force in October 2023.
Sustainable alternatives are available to plastic and polystyrene cups such as compostable paper cups for both measured drinks and general beverage use. Note, British standard compostable plastic can also be used.
Please note, however, that the intention of the government plans is to encourage the removal of unnecessary single use plastic and single use items in general so please consider whether there are more sustainable options to offer than single use plastic cups.
We have some resources and guides linked above on reusables and bring back schemes.
Under the single use plastics plans we encourage everyone to replace unnecessary single use plastics with more sustainable products where they can.
However, if your food containers are not made from polystyrene or oxo-degradable plastic, then they are not covered by the Regulations, and may therefore continue to be used.
Under the Regulations, polystyrene food containers are:
'Food containers made of expanded polystyrene with or without a cover, used to contain food which —
(a) is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away;
(b) is typically consumed from the receptacle; and
(c) is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, including food containers used for fast food or other meals ready for immediate consumption, except beverage containers, plates and packets and wrappers containing food.'
The Regulations define plastic with the ‘exception of natural polymers that have not been chemically modified’ and they also exclude “compostable plastic” which is defined as’ plastic which conforms to BS EN 13432 Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation – Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging’.
Please note also the ban does apply on the distribution of single use plastic cutlery, plates and bowls (a plate or bowl from which food is eaten or served that is made wholly or partly from plastic and that is not designed or intended to be re-used).
At this time compostable plastic items are not banned under the regulations, however to be deemed a ‘compostable plastic” the material must be certified to the standard of BS EN 13432.
As such not all products labelled ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ will be exempt from the Regulations and businesses are asked to discuss a product’s suitability with their supplier.
The biodegradation process depends on various factors and can vary depending on material type, which is why products must be certified to standard BS EN 13432 to ensure materials will biodegrade effectively.
Note, carrier bags prohibited under the regulations have handles. Therefore any bags, like those supplied at supermarkets usually without handles to avoid cross contamination of meat and other goods are not included in the ban at this time.
DEFA will seek to work with business and charities to help them achieve compliance.
If a business or charity fails to make changes, the Department can enforce Civil Sanctions. This can be in the form of an Enforcement Notice (a list of required actions) or a Monetary Penalty (a fine).
In both those cases the business or charity has the opportunity to agree suitable actions or changes which will address the issue and may avoid the penalty by doing so.
For more information on non-compliance please read from page 6 of the Regulations Guidance document.
Straws – Sch2 para6 of the regulations allows for the use of straws in schools ‘where it is not reasonably practicable to use the service without being supplied with a single use plastic straw in connection with that service.’ Therefore if it is necessary, then it is OK, but consider whether alternatives are available.
Polystyrene cups – for science experiments, these are not in use for beverages and therefore not covered by the Regulations.
Spoons - the Regulations cover cutlery used for eating or serving food and that are not designed or intended to be re-used. They may be used for science experiments and should ideally be cleaned and reused, if possible. Note, British standard compostable plastic is exempt and can be used as an alternative.