British government may expand plastics bag charge

Theresa May speaking at the launch of the Government's 25-year environment plan at The London Wetland Centre in South West London

Video 'War on plastic' as PM launches 25-year Environmental Plan

Image: The UK seeks to eradicate plastic waste in the country within next 25 years.

"We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates", she said. If the Government wants to do more than tinker at the edges of recycling policy, it must act decisively to promote United Kingdom markets for recycled materials. Upgrading facilitiesMr Price said farming facilities will need upgrading to promote significant new development.

"Through this plan we will build on our reputation as a global leader in environmental protection, creating an environment everyone can enjoy and helping the next generation flourish".

May's former director of communications, Katie Perrior, wrote in The Times that the prime minister's enthusiasm for the environment "may not be insincere but it is certainly new".

"The stance that "where Government needs to intervene to ensure high standards are met, we will not hesitate to do so", is very welcome".

The Government's overarching plan to achieve zero avoidable waste by 2050 and double resource productivity by 2042 will be facilitated by a new national Resources and Waste strategy. Putting quality at the heart of the supply chain will provide clarity in terms of packaging design, collections infrastructure, recycling solutions and ultimately secondary materials markets. "Working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we will bring together every "body, business and organisation" involved in the life-cycle of plastics to make the move from a throw away culture to one where resources are used over and over again".

It was left unclear how this would relate to the Environment Agency or whether it would replace it. In a speech which pundits are already claiming is too little, too late - and which credited Sir David Attenborough's BBC series that showed the true extent of the plastic problem as an incentive for the changes - May set out the government's plans. Only 9 per cent of this plastic waste was recycled and 79 per cent went to landfill or found its way into the environment. "Without more funding, councils will struggle to deliver any new aspirations that the Government have".

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said that the plans ambitions "raised the spirits", but that the lack of legal underpinning of the plan was a fundamental flaw.

There are plans to extend the 5p levy on plastic bags to all shops
Image The 5p levy on plastic bags will be extended to all shops

The plan will be unveiled on Thursday and Whitehall sources confirmed that a consultation on extending the plastic bag charge will form part of it. Retailers with fewer than 250 employees are now exempted from the charge.

The wide-ranging government strategy includes a Whitehall-led crackdown on the officially-sanctioned use of disposable plastic goods, such as knives, forks, and straws - underpinning a nationwide target to "eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042".

The Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) said it supported the elimination of the minimum retailer size threshold but stood by the argument it put forward when the plastic carrier bag charge was originally proposed that an exemption for hot, ready to eat take-away food on hygiene grounds was fully justified.

One of the UK's leading plastic recyclers Vanden Recycling has said that the Government's 25-year Environment Plan has "sensible suggestions" for developing United Kingdom plastics recycling.

Industry will also be encouraged to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and make them easier to recycle. He added: "There was much to welcome".

"Twenty-five years is a long way off - particularly for a government that might not last 25 weeks".

One of the most relevant pieces for sustainability professionals is the pledge to kickstart a green business council that will help the Government to "encourage incentivise and create the right conditions for private sector innovation in green enterprise and environmental entrepreneurialism". "This is the right ambition, setting us apart from a race to the bottom that would only end badly for the United Kingdom".

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