Theresa May hints at plastic bottle charge ahead of key environmental speech

Theresa May has indicated that the Government will introduce a 5p charge on plastic bottles, in the run up to a major speech on Thursday where the PM is expected to outline her long-term vision for the UK's environment.

Ministers are consulting on how a tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste. 

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday (7 January), May expressed a desire to replicate the success of the plastic carrier bag charge, which has seen a 83% drop in the usage of single-use plastic bags since 2015.

“People often think about environmental issues and wonder whether the Government can have an impact on that,” the PM told Marr.

“In 2015, we introduced the 5p charge on plastic bags. We now see nine billion fewer bags being used. This is making a real difference. We want to do the same in relation to single plastic use. Nobody who watched Blue Planet will doubt the need for us to do something.”

Green Tories

May, whose cabinet reshuffle this week could reportedly see BEIS Secretary Greg Clark removed from his post, has made a conscious effort in recent weeks to focus on environmental issues in a bid to boost the Conservatives’ image among younger voters.

During her speech at the One Planet Summit in France last month, May declared that tackling climate change and reducing its effects on poor countries is a “moral imperative”.

On Thursday, she will deliver a major speech to outline the Government’s plans for the environment.

The Government’s much-anticipated 25-Year Environment Plan will map out various pledges to improve specific areas of the environment including water, natural capital, air quality and resource efficiency. It is thought that proposals on tackling plastic waste go further than the plastic bottle deposit return scheme suggested by Defra Secretary Michael Gove.

It comes less than a week after Gove indicated that the UK will replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-Brexit with a system that gives subsidies to farmers who try to enhance the natural environment.

Meanwhile, the PM confirmed on Marr’s show that she would no longer keep her pre-election pledge to offer her party a free vote on fox hunting, confirming also that £5.7m would be set aside to develop a national forest that will stretch from Liverpool to Hull.

Led by the Woodland Trust, the project will see 50 million trees planted along a 120-mile stretch of land. It is expected to cost £500m over 25 years and will aim to provide new habitat for wildlife and boost the UK economy by around £2bn through tourism, jobs and reduced flood risk.

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George Ogleby

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