London chefs call for polystyrene packaging ban

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

London's top chefs, lead by Ed Baines (pictured), called for a ban on polystyrene packaging
London's top chefs, lead by Ed Baines (pictured), called for a ban on polystyrene packaging

Related tags: Recycling, London

London’s top chefs have called for a ban on polystyrene packaging in an open letter to mayor Sadiq Khan, citing environmental and health concerns.

Seafood restaurant Randal & Aubin’s founder Ed Baines joined with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Theo Randal, Mark Hix and food critic William Sitwell in a plea to London’s top official.

They claimed that the current widespread use of polystyrene packaging contributed to London’s ‘abysmal’ recycling performance.

The chefs also voiced concerns about the impact the non-biodegradable material had on the environment.

In the letter, Baines called for London to follow the lead of San Fransisco, New York and Washington DC, that had all placed bans on the use of polystyrene packaging.

Lower than average

He also commented on the lower than average rates of recycling in the capital, compared with the rest of the UK.

Commenting on the letter, Baines said: “As a chef committed to sustainability and food provenance, I am very concerned about the use of harmful packaging materials such as polystyrene throughout London.

“Not only are the mountains of polystyrene waste environmentally damaging and unsightly, it has also been shown to be harmful to health!

“We should be doing everything we can to get Londoners to use safer, environmentally friendly, recyclable packaging​.”

Reducing London’s waste footprint

Khan’s mayoral election manifesto emphasised his commitment to reducing London’s waste footprint and outlined his promise to get the city on track to hit the target of 65% recycled waste by 2030.

The chefs pressured Khan to live up to these promises and “take us one step closer to a zero waste, clean, green London”.

A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: “Sadiq does not have the power to enforce a ban on polystyrene packaging in London but he is extremely supportive of initiatives to help boost recycling and make London cleaner.

“He will be asking his new deputy mayor for environment to deliver a number of ambitious proposals that encourage better waste management and tackle pollution across the city.”

Open letter to Sadiq Khan

Dear Sadiq,

Soho is one of the liveliest and most exciting places in London and has been home to my restaurant for the last 18 years. Over this time, the area has got busier and more congested as new restaurants, bars and nightclubs open. Great as this is, there are some serious issues that Soho and its inhabitants have to contend with, and immense amounts of waste is one of them.

I see more waste in the streets of Soho than ever before. This waste is filling up the small amounts of space we have at the restaurants and spilling out on to the streets, every day. Much of this waste consists of excessive packaging that is not bio-degradable or recyclable. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is polystyrene which is delivered in its truck loads, delivering produce that could just as easily be packaged using more environmentally friendly materials.

In my restaurant alone, mountains of polystyrene containers are delivered every year! Following delivery, these containers are emptied and then broken up and left to be collected at a cost. Polystyrene containers can only be used once.

The problems that come with polystyrene are not exclusive to London. It is estimated that globally around 80bn polystyrene coffee cups are thrown away each year.

Polystyrene makes up a large amount of the debris in our oceans, seas and rivers contaminating fish stocks. Polystyrene acts like a sponge so picks up pollutants in the ocean which can then be ingested by fish. These are the same fish which end up on your plate.

Therefore, with my fellow signatories, I feel an obligation to take the lead from more progressive cities of the world such as San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC and call on you as the Mayor of London to introduce a ban on this unsightly and environmentally damaging method of packaging.

In London, recycling rates are lower than the UK average. As an industry and as residents of bustling Soho, we should be doing everything we can to encourage London’s bars, hotels, restaurants and shops to re-use and recycle more.

This white foamy material might seem harmless, but it’s not – it is the scourge of Soho! This move could really make a difference so the signatories of this letter would encourage you and the rest of London to help support this cause, and take us one step closer to a zero waste, clean, green London!

Yours sincerely,

Ed Baines

Co-signed by​:

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Mark Hix

Theo Randall

William Sitwell 

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