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Launching the UK’s 25 Year Environment Plan, the prime minister Theresa May is to set out the government’s determination to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
She will outline steps for a cleaner, greener Britain – with avoidable plastic waste eliminated by the end of 2042.
To help achieve this, the government will extend the 5p carrier bag charge to all retailers in England. To date, we have used nine billion fewer plastic bags as a direct consequence of introducing the charge.
The government will also work with supermarkets to encourage them to introduce plastic free aisles in which all the food is loose. This will give consumers the choice to make greener decisions and promote the use of less damaging plastic packaging.
To encourage industry to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and make them easier to recycle, the government will also look at how the tax system or charges could further reduce the amount of waste we create. A call for evidence on how to reduce the use of single use plastics will begin next month.
In addition we will to inject new funding into plastics innovation through a bid into the government’s £7 billion research and development pot.
It is estimated that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s.
Research indicates that without urgent action to cut demand this is likely to be 34 billion tonnes by 2050.
In the UK alone, during its recent Great British Beach Clean Up, the Marine Conservation Society found 718 pieces of litter for every 100 metre stretch of beach surveyed, and of this rubbish from food and drink made up at least one fifth.
In the speech, Theresa May states:
‘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 1000 Royal Albert Halls.
‘This plastic is ingested by dozens of species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds, causing immense suffering to individual creatures and degrading vital habitats. One million birds, and over 100,000 other sea mammals and turtles die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. One in three fish caught in the English Channel contains pieces of plastic.
‘This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time.
Today I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership. We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates. To tackle it we will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic.
Demonstrating global leadership the UK will also do more to help developing nations tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste, including through UK aid.’
Mrs May adds: ‘I want the Britain of the future to be a truly global Britain, which is a force for good in the world. Steadfast in upholding our values – not least our fierce commitment to protecting the natural environment.
‘When we host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April we will put the sustainable development of our oceans firmly on the agenda.
‘We will work with our partners to create a Commonwealth Blue Charter and push for strong action to reduce plastic waste in the ocean.
‘We will direct our development spending to help developing nations reduce plastic waste, increase our own marine protected areas at home, and establish new Blue Belt protections in our overseas territories.’
The Prime Minister is also to announce plans to help more children engage with the environment. This will be delivered through £10 million for school visits and a Nature Friendly Schools programme to create school grounds which allow young people to learn more about the natural world, targeting schools in disadvantaged areas first.
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