The government will take action to outlaw a series of throwaway food and drink items known to pollute the rivers and oceans due to poor rates of recycling by the end of the 2023.
Responses to a long-running government consultation on proposals to ban some plastic items is set to be released next week, is thought to include plastic cutlery, trays and bowls.
“A plastic fork can take 200 years to decompose, that is two centuries in landfill or polluting our oceans,” Ms Coffey told the Mail on Sunday on the plan.
She said: “I am determined to drive forward action to tackle this issue head on. We’ve already taken major steps in recent years – but we know there is more to do, and we have again listened to the public’s calls.”
“This new ban will have a huge impact to stop the pollution of billions of pieces of plastic and help to protect the natural environment for future generations,” the environment secretary added.
The Scotland and Wales governments already have outlawed many single-use food and drink plastics. The planned ban for England will cover polystyrene cups and other items at cafes and takeaway outlets, according to the Mail.
However, it is not expected to cover the kind of plastic plates and bowls that are used as packaging for takeaway items at supermarkets and other shops.
This is due to the fact that such plastics would be considered “primary packaging” and will be covered by a scheme aimed at making manufacturers pay for disposal costs due to come in 2024.
Environmentalists welcomed the move – but warned it did not go far enough in eliminating unnecessary use of plastic. “This is like reaching for a mop instead of turning off the tap,” said Megan Randles of Greenpeace UK.
She added: “We need the government to deliver a meaningful plastic reduction strategy, which means bringing in plastic reduction targets and a proper reuse and refill scheme.”
Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of charity Keep Britain Tidy, said it was “definitely a step in the right direction”.
She added: “As a society, we need to wean ourselves off all single-use items, which take huge amount of resources to produce only to end up either in the bin or littered on the ground after being used for just a few minutes.”
In total, 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.3bn single-use items of cutlery are used and then binned in England each year, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Plastic can last for centuries in landfill, and often end up littering streets and beauty spots such as parks, the countryside and oceans.
Such items also harm animals and sealife. More than one million birds and more than 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die are believed to be killed around the world every year from eating plastic waste or getting tangled and trapped in it.