Plastic pollution exports to be banned

| 30th January 2020
The Environment Bill has been reintroduced to Parliament with new powers to stop plastic rubbish exports to less developed countries.

There are continuing concerns that ministers will decide the green watchdog's budget and board, with a weaker legal status for environmental principles.

Exporting polluting plastic waste from the UK to developing countries will be banned or restricted under new legislation to protect the environment.

The Environment Bill has been reintroduced to Parliament with new powers to stop plastic rubbish exports to less developed countries, to prevent waste being shipped out of sight and boost the UK's domestic recycling system.

The bill was first introduced in October last year, but did not progress as the general election was called shortly afterwards.

Standards

It now contains the new powers on plastic exports and a two-yearly review of significant developments in international environmental legislation to ensure the UK keeps up with green protections, officials said.

Other measures in the draft legislation include a legally-binding target to reduce air pollutant PM2.5, a fine particulate matter, and a framework for long-term legal targets in place on air and water quality and boosting nature.

A new watchdog - the Office of Environmental Protection - will scrutinise laws, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities to uphold standards.

The regulator's powers will cover climate change legislation and hold the Government to account on the legal commitment to cut greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050, working alongside the existing advisory Committee on Climate Change.

And, in the case of a repeat of the Volkswagen emissions scandal which revealed cars were emitting more pollution than tests showed, ministers will be able to demand manufacturers recall vehicles that do not meet relevant standards.

Threat

There will also be measures to ensure net gains for wildlife in new developments, with house builders required to show they have delivered a boost in nature.

And after Sheffield Council faced criticism over tree-felling, the Bill also includes steps to give communities a greater say in the protection of local trees.

There will be a more consistent approach to recycling across England, powers to create a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and a mechanism for introducing a levy on single use plastics, similar to the carrier bag charge, that could be applied to items such as takeaway cutlery.

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "We are facing climate change and our precious natural environment is under threat. We need to take decisive action.

"We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the Environment Bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim.

Law

"It sets a gold standard for improving air quality, protecting nature, increasing recycling and cutting down on plastic waste."

She said the moves would build on the UK's strong track record as the first major economy to commit to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and would drive further action on the environment in a year that will see the UK host major UN climate talks in Glasgow in November.

Ruth Chambers, from the Greener UK coalition of major environmental organisations, said: "The Government has shown increasingly strong ambition in tackling the environmental crisis, and should be supported for proposing legally binding targets for air and water and for its plans to restore nature.

"However, there are continuing concerns that ministers will decide the green watchdog's budget and board, with a weaker legal status for environmental principles. The proposals for how targets will be set for air quality and nature are also a pale imitation of how targets are set for climate."

She added: "Reviewing international environmental legislation every two years could be helpful, but it cannot and should not be seen as a substitute for committing in law to the high standards we already enjoy."

This Author

Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent. 

 

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