Launching its long-awaited 25-year environment plan yesterday, the UK Government set out a series of actions intended to reduce marine plastic pollution, with the target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.
The plan includes:
- launching a call for evidence in 2018 on how taxation or charges could reduce waste from single-use plastics;
- working with industry to improve the recyclability of packaging;
- reforming UK producer responsibility regulations to incentivise manufacturers to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products;
- building on the microbeads ban and exploring bans on other problematic materials;
- removing single-use plastics from Government offices;
- extending the 5p plastic bag charge in England to small retailers;
- supporting water companies, retailers and other outlets to offer new refill points in every major city and town in England for people to top up water bottles for free;
- working with retailers to look at introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles;
- working with developing nations to reduce plastic pollution and tackling plastic at an international level through the United Nations, G7, G20 and International Maritime Organisation.
Noticeably absent, however, were firm commitments to introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers or a ‘latte levy’ on single-use coffee cups. Of further concern is the proposed investment in the development of bio-based biodegradable plastic, which does not degrade in the natural environment and provides no solution to the growing avalanche of plastic waste.
Sarah Baulch, EIA Oceans Campaigner, said: “Our marine wildlife is choking on a veritable tsunami of plastics and it’s growing bigger all the time. We welcome the objectives set out by the UK Government and its commitment to reducing the amount of plastics in circulation. The marine plastic pollution crisis cannot be solved through recycling alone – we need to drastically reduce the amount of plastics to address this grave threat to our oceans.
“EIA is particularly pleased to see initiatives that will reduce production of single-use plastics and ensure producers are responsible, such as the extension of the 5p carrier bag charge, the proposed tax or charges on single-use plastics, bans on problematic materials and refill points for water.
“However, the plans as set out must be implemented as a matter of urgency and backed by funding and new legislation where necessary – our shared environment simply cannot wait until 2042.”