PM must set legally binding plastic pollution targets

Ava Roberts with plastic waste

Ava Roberts and some of the plastic waste she collected as part of the Everyday Plastic survey.

Everyday Plastic/PA Wire
Academics and campaigners write to Boris Johnson as MPs discuss Environment Bill.

We are calling on the Prime Minister to take bold action on plastic for the benefit of people and the planet.

Businesses, MPs, faith leaders, academics and campaigning organisations are calling on the Prime Minister to introduce legally binding targets to stem the growing tide of plastic pollution.  

Read the letter. 

The call comes as MPs are set to debate amendments to the Environment Bill in Parliament during its report stage later today. An amendment calling for legally binding plastics reduction targets to be included in the bill has been tabled by Chris Loder MP.

In their letter to Boris Johnson the group says that while government initiatives - such as the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds – have had positive impacts, a more over-arching approach is needed to deal with the problem.

Targets

In particular, the Prime Minister is being urged to ensure that long-term and interim targets for cutting plastic pollution are included in the government’s flagship Environment Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament.  
 
The signatories to the letter include businesses such as Iceland and Neal’s Yard, MPs, faith leaders, academics and organisations such as Friends of the Earth, the WI, Surfers against Sewage, Keep Britain Tidy, City to Sea and Tearfund. (see link to letter [below] for a full list).  
 
Although the government’s focus has rightly been on the coronavirus crisis over the past year, the plastic pollution problem has not gone away – and appears to have been exacerbated by the pandemic, with disposable face masks found on more than two thirds of recent Marine Conservation Society beach clean ups.  
 
Chris Loder MP has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill requiring legally binding plastic pollution reduction targets to be set.

Scourge

He said: “The government has made great strides towards tackling the scourge of plastic pollution. My amendment takes this further. We generate so much plastic waste here in the UK that it needs to be shipped abroad, whilst supermarkets and large retailers have no requirement to reduce their excessive plastic usage. Now is the time to get a grip of plastic pollution, once and for all.”

Camilla Zerr, a plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Despite the introduction of a few welcome measures, the government must go much further to stem the rising tide of plastic pollution pouring into our environment. 
 
“Boris Johnson has a golden opportunity to get to grips with the crisis by ensuring that the Environment Bill contains legally binding targets for reducing the amount of plastic waste polluting our planet every year
 
“The government has promised to be a world leader on the environment and set a gold standard for cutting down on plastic waste. Now it’s time to deliver.”

Selling

Amy Slack, head of campaigns and policy at Surfers Against Sewage, said: “During the COVID pandemic we have seen just how important our green and blue spaces are for people’s mental health and wellbeing. However, the pandemic has also highlighted once again the sheer amount of plastic pollution that enters into the environment choking these treasured natural places.  
 
“With the Environment Bill the government has a once in a generation opportunity to tackle this pollution at source by setting ambitious plastic pollution reduction targets. On behalf of ocean lovers all over the UK we are calling on the Prime Minister to take bold action on plastic for the benefit of people and the planet.” 
 
The Rt Revd Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington and Tearfund Ambassador said: “By introducing a law to cut plastic pollution the UK Government would have serious credibility in leading the charge against global plastic pollution which blights the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people every year.

"This legislation would also send a strong and clear signal to large companies that the days of business models based on selling single use plastic packaging are numbered.”

This Author

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Friends of the Earth.

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