Cross-party MPs back call for nationwide ban on single-use plastics by 2025

A group of MPs from across the political spectrum have given their backing to a new draft bill on plastic pollution, which calls for all "non-essential" single-use plastics to be banned across the UK by 2025.

The first reading of the bill will take place today (25 February), with a second reading earmarked for 15 March

The first reading of the bill will take place today (25 February), with a second reading earmarked for 15 March

Drawn up by Friends of the Earth and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), the draft Phase-out of Plastic Pollution Bill urges the Government to ban “the vast majority of polluting, single-use plastics” within the next six years, including sachets and coffee cup lids.

Longer term, the Bill sets out a series of statutory waste reduction targets in the years leading up to 2042. By this point, the document states, “all but the most essential uses of plastic” should be avoided.

The draft Bill also includes the establishment of an independent advisory committee on plastic pollution – a body which would advise ministers on which policy measures would best help the UK to meet its statutory recycling, reuse and reduction goals.

The bill builds on Theresa May’s commitment to eradicate all “avoidable” plastic waste in the UK by 2042 – a pledge which the Prime Minister included in her 25-year plan for the environment last year. Friends of the Earth welcomed the plan but argued that the timescales related to its targets were too lenient.

"Recent initiatives from government and companies are certainly welcome, but these are just tiny drops in a vast ocean of plastic waste that’s wrecking our environment and harming our wildlife,” Friends of the Earth’s chief executive Craig Bennett said.

“The only practical way to really end the scourge of plastic pollution in the next 25 years is through legislation. Recent initiatives from government and companies are certainly welcome, but these are just tiny drops in a vast ocean of plastic waste that’s wrecking our environment and harming our wildlife.”

The first reading of the Bill is set to take place this afternoon (25 February) in the House of Commons, with a second reading earmarked for 15 March. It has already received support from a group of 12 cross-party MPs, including Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Chair Mary Creagh and Brighton’s Green Party representative Caroline Lucas.

Should the Bill become law, it will be the first national legislation aimed exclusively at cutting plastic waste.

Public support

The launch of the draft Bill coincides with the publication of the results of a new YouGov poll, commissioned by Friends of the Earth, which saw almost 2,000 UK adults questioned on their stance towards anti-plastic legislation.

For the survey, 1,913 UK residents aged 18 and over were asked whether they would support legislation involving a “significant” reduction in plastic packaging within 25 years. Almost nine in ten (89%) respondents said they would back such a policy.

A further key finding was that 88% of respondents would like to see laws implemented which would require packaging manufacturers and retailers to remove all “non-essential” single-use plastics by 2025. Specifically, 89% said they would like to see manufacturers take more ambitious plastic reduction ambitions, while 86% said the same of supermarkets and other retailers.

These findings echo the results of a recent poll by packaging industry body ProCarton, which quizzed 7,000 consumers across seven European markets. That study found that more than one-third (36%) of Europeans have already boycotted one or more brands due to packaging sustainability concerns and that 92% would choose a plastic-free version of their favourite product over a traditionally packaged format.

Policy changes in the pipeline

The publication of the YouGov survey results also comes as the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is consulting on measures outlined in its updated Resources and Waste Strategy, which was published shortly before Christmas 2018.

The strategy, which is the first of its kind in the UK in more than a decade, includes proposals for plastic producers to pay full net-costs of disposal of packaging they place on the market – up from just 10% now. It additionally sets out plans for a national deposit return scheme, aimed at increasing the recycling of single-use drinks containers.

Separately, the UK Government is also consulting on whether the nation's current charge for single-use plastic carrier bags should be doubled to 10p and rolled out across all shops. The move comes after the introduction of the initial 5p charge in 2015 led to an 86% reduction in the number of carrier bags sold in England over a three-year period.

Sarah George



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