Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd has called for longer prison sentences and bigger fines for waste criminals.
Speaking at the Manchester Green Summit, she said: “For the damage these crimes do to the environment and to communities’ health and wellbeing; for their flagrant disregard for public safety; for the money taken out of pockets of responsible local businesses, and – in some cases – into the pockets of organised crime: I still don’t think the deterrent is strong enough.
“Today, I am calling for higher fines and custodial sentences for waste criminals.
“How we deal with the rising tide of waste is a global challenge, but no one should have to live next door to this disgusting criminality.”
The comments came as ex-Manchester United player, Gary Neville, launched “Plastic-Free Greater Manchester”.
The campaign is set to put Greater Manchester at the forefront of taking action to eliminate single-use plastics. The campaign targets businesses and local people, encouraging them to make the shift away from single-use plastics to renewable alternatives.
Those leading the campaign and aiming to be plastic-free by 2020 include: GG Hospitality, Manchester Central, Manchester Marriot Victoria and Albert Hotel, Grafene Restaurant and Bar, Eclectic Hotels, Manchester Art Gallery, Best Western Plus Pinewood in Wilmslow and Real Junk Food Manchester.
Over the next six months these businesses will be setting out a plan to achieve their goal and, as a first step, are starting to replace plastic straws with recyclable alternatives.
As part of this effort, the Mayor will help the campaign to establish a Green City Business Consortium that will bring together Greater Manchester businesses looking to make change from single-use plastics to reusable, recyclable plastics and other alternative materials.
“Greater Manchester is all about leading the way and doing things that bit differently. If we’re successful in our efforts to drive down our use of single-use plastics and accelerate our ambitions for carbon neutrality, there’s no reason why similar models couldn’t be adopted across the UK”
The consortium would be designed to make sure that smaller businesses, which are looking to make the transition from plastic to more sustainable options, are not disadvantaged by cost. By buying in bulk and making the switchover together, businesses can make a speedy, more affordable transition.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “I’m proud that major figures from Greater Manchester’s hospitality and tourism industry have chosen the Green Summit as a platform to launch this campaign that could help make Greater Manchester the first UK city-region that eliminates single-use plastics. It’s got my full support.
“It won’t be without challenges, but Greater Manchester is all about leading the way and doing things that bit differently. If we’re successful in our efforts to drive down our use of single-use plastics and accelerate our ambitions for carbon neutrality, there’s no reason why similar models couldn’t be adopted across the UK.”
Ditch The Plastic
As well as straws, local cafes, hotels and restaurants are also being encouraged to ditch single-portion pats of plastic-wrapped butter and jams in plastic pots. Single-use coffee cups and water bottles will also be targeted.
And it’s not just the hospitality sector getting involved. BBC North have put an end to single use plastics in their canteen and coffee shops, while the Co-op has changed its pizza packaging to prevent 200 tonnes of polystyrene boards going to landfill, amongst a range of other measures.
The campaign was launched at Greater Manchester’s inaugural Green Summit. The summit brought local people, academics, climate change experts and business leaders together to pave the way forward for making Greater Manchester one of the leading green cities in Europe.
At the summit, the Mayor, along with local leaders also set out his ambitions to bring Greater Manchester’s carbon neutrality target forward by at least a decade from 2050. To help achieve this, proposals put forward at the summit included an emissions-free bus fleet, doubling the provision of charging points for electric vehicles, and building zero carbon homes.
The Green Summit was livestreamed on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority website and online audience participation has been promised to give everyone a chance to have a say and get involved.