PM wages war on plastic in new environment plan

The UK government has said it will eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 as part of a raft of measures to tackle plastic pollution.

Delivering a major speech to mark the publication of the government’s 25-year environment plan, Prime Minister Theresa May also promised to extend the 5p carrier bag charge; to work with supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles; and to encourage the industry to make products easier to recycle.

The Government will also look at how the tax system or charges could further reduce the amount of waste with media reports suggesting a tax on takeaway containers was being considered.

There was, however, no explicit support for a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles which has been called for by the Environmental Audit Committee.

Greenpeace called the omission “a glaring gap” in a plan that it described as “a missed opportunity” to tackle the UK’s plastic problem. “It's good that the government wants to make tackling plastic waste a priority, but the specific measures announced today don't match the scale of the environmental crisis we face,” said Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK. “Encouraging more water fountains, extending charges on plastic bags and funding for innovation can all be part of the solution, but the overall plastics plan lacks urgency, detail and bite.”

As part of the plan, the Government will extend the 5p carrier bag charge to all retailers in England. Retailers with fewer than 250 employees are currently exempted from the charge.

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.

“If such usage is not to be exempted then we urge government, in line with Food Standards Agency advice, to ensure the public is fully aware of the need to use a fresh clean bag when carrying ready to eat food,” said Martin Kersh, executive director of the FPA.

For an in-depth analysis of Theresa May’s speech read Footprint Premium on Monday.

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