PM urged to set legally binding targets to cut plastic pollution

Businesses, MPs, academics and campaigning organisations are calling on the UK Prime Minister to introduce ‘legally binding’ targets to stem what they call ‘the growing tide of plastic pollution’.

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

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.

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.

Although the government’s focus has rightly been on the coronavirus crisis over the past year, they say, 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.

‘Get a grip of plastic pollution’

Chris Loder MP, who has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill requiring legally binding plastic pollution reduction targets to be set [but isn’t a letter signatory], 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.”

Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Camilla Zerr 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.”

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.”

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