Plastic bottles processing

‘Avoidable’ plastic waste to be eliminated by 2042, vows Prime Minister

Image credit: Ecoalf

Theresa May takes aim at scourge of packaging as she unveils long-term action plan for the environment, but opposition politicians say her pledge lacks ambition.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said all “avoidable” plastic waste will be eliminated in the country over the next 25 years as she unveiled her government’s long-term action plan for cleaning up the environment today.

Supermarkets will be urged to introduce “plastic-free” aisles, where shoppers can pick up products free from layers of plastic wrapping.

The 5p charge for plastic carrier bags will be extended to all retailers in England, closing a loophole under which smaller shops are currently excluded from this measure. Taxes or charges on other single-use items such as plastic cutlery and takeaway boxes will also be considered.

Critics, including Labour’s shadow environment minister Holly Lynch, questioned why there was no mention of a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles – an idea that had previously been mooted in Whitehall.

The Liberal Democrats said it “beggared belief” that a target of 2042 had been set, calling for urgent action now. Others requested greater clarity over the term “avoidable plastic”, saying this was too ill-defined.  

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, called the plan “vague” and also criticised the government’s stance on fracking for shale gas, a form of fossil fuel.

In todays speech the Prime Minister said the problem of plastic waste, much of which ends up in the seas, was “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”.

She promised that the UK would show global leadership on the issue, taking action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic.

“We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals, untreated, into rivers was ever the right thing to do.

“In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.

“In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.”

The government has also announced a new fund for research into “plastics innovation” designed to reduce the harmful effects of the materials. Money is expected to be allocated to projects in the developing world to cut down on the amount of litter finding its way into rivers there.

Meanwhile, a scheme to help more children engage with the environment will include £10m for school visits and a programme to create school grounds which allow youngsters to learn more about the natural world.

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