Since COP26 in November last year, the government has been ramping up its efforts to prioritise sustainability across the UK.
Businesses may be excused for failing to keep up with the plethora of consultations, policy announcements and briefing papers that have been released in recent weeks, as the nation enters a crucial phase in efforts to become carbon net-zero by 2050. Indeed, as a sector we have set our targets ahead of this date, and UKHospitality remains on call to cut through the fog and represent the sector to government.
Single-use plastic ban proposals
Two important consultations that UKHospitality has recently responded to relate to single-use plastics and biodiversity net gain. On the former, the government is proposing, from April 2023, to ban the supply of some single-use plastic items including plates, cutlery and polystyrene food containers.
On the face of it, this is of course something the sector is supporting. Businesses are already well on their way to transitioning away from plastic and towards more sustainable packaging alternatives. However, and crucially, within this the government outlined its intention to exempt some single-use packaging for take-out, but not eat-in. We highlighted the significant strain this would place on the sector, and particularly those food to go businesses where a hybrid of eat-in and take-out is regularly offered to customers. Having to display some food in reusable packaging, whilst being permitted to display others in the single-use plastic would be incredibly onerous for businesses, and confusing to customers. Of course, these points were strongly emphasised within the UKHospitality response to the consultation.
Biodiversity is certainly an area that has gained traction since the Government’s flagship Environment Act entered into force in November last year. While some businesses may still be struggling to quantify how they can improve the biodiversity of their venues, biodiversity net gain as a pre-condition for development is set to impact the sector towards the end of 2023.
Simply put, under the Town and Country Planning Act, in scope businesses and developments would have to achieve a 10% biodiversity net gain increase from the pre-development biodiversity cycle. This requirement is framed as a pre-commencement condition, meaning the obligation must be discharged before development can begin.
In our consultation response, whilst expressing support for the government’s biodiversity ambitions, we cautioned against placing burdensome regulations on businesses already struggling to get their post-Covid recoveries off the ground.
We continue to highlight to government the need to strike the balance between protecting the environment and creating too much bureaucratic red tape.