Significant progress has already been made to address plastic pollution. This includes introducing one of the world’s toughest bans on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and restricting the supply of plastic straws, plastic drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. The use of single-use carrier bags has been reduced in the main supermarkets by over 95 per cent with the 5p charge and this has been increased to 10p and extended it to all retailers.
The Environment Act 2021 includes a raft of new powers to address plastic pollution and litter, including a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers, which will recycle billions more plastic bottles and stop them being landfilled or littered. The Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for packaging will make manufacturers responsible for the full net cost of recycling their packaging waste and encourage more recyclable packaging. In addition, the Act establishes greater consistency in the recycling system and introduces new powers to make it easier to place charges on single-use plastic items that threaten our ecosystems.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has a plastics target in the 25-year Environment Plan of ending all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. The long-term, legally binding target on waste reduction will take a holistic approach to reducing consumption of all materials, not just plastics or plastic packaging. This will reduce the overall volume of waste we generate, including plastic waste.
The proposed targets and green paper proposals will ensure the right framework is in place to meet the UK’s international commitments to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030. They are both subject to an eight-week consultation process.
I am aware that the export of plastic waste is subject to strict controls set out in UK legislation. Businesses involved in the export of waste are required to take all necessary steps to ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling. Individuals and businesses found to be exporting waste in contravention of the requirements of the legislation can face a two-year jail term and an unlimited fine.