Powers to halt the export of “polluting plastic waste” to developing countries has been outlined in the Government’s Environment Bill, published today (30 Jan).
The Bill includes a power which will enable the government to ban or restrict the export of “polluting plastic waste” to non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.
Government says it will consult with industry, NGOs, and local authorities on specific restrictions or prohibitions.
A two-yearly review of the significant developments in international legislation on the environment, has also been set out, with an aim of ensuring the UK “drives forward” its environmental protection legislation.
A report will be published detailing significant developments in international legislation on the environment every two years, the findings of which will be factored into the UK’s Environmental Improvement Plan and environmental target setting process, both of which are set be enshrined in law.
We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the Environment Bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim
The return of the Bill to Parliament follows the General Election; the Bill was first put forward under Teresa May’s Conservative administration.
“Tackling plastic pollution is just one example of where our commitments to the environment will go beyond the EU’s level of ambition and – by freeing ourselves from future changes to EU law – we will be able to lead the way at home and abroad to deliver global environmental change,” the Government states.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “We are facing climate change and our precious natural environment is under threat. We need to take decisive action.
“We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the Environment Bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim. It sets a gold standard for improving air quality, protecting nature, increasing recycling and cutting down on plastic waste.”
Office for Environmental Protection
As well as the measures outlined above, legislation will create legally-binding environmental improvement targets.
A new independent Office for Environmental Protection will be established to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities, if necessary, to uphold our environmental standards.
The office’s powers will cover all climate change legislation and hold the government to account on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The Bill will also aim to transform the way the UK manages its waste – through powers that enables Government to require producers to take “more responsibility” for the products and materials they place on the market – including when they become waste.
It will introduce a “consistent approach” to recycling, tackling waste crime, creating powers to introduce bottle deposit return schemes and having more effective litter enforcement.
The Bill builds on this government’s action to protect the environment, as set out in its 25 Year Environment Plan.
“More specific and binding measures”
Friends of the Earth has responded to the Bill saying the government’s pledge to show global leadership on protecting our environment is welcome but the Environment Bill must contain “more specific and binding measures”.
Friends of the Earth campaigner, Kierra Box, said: “If the government wants to show global leadership on protecting our environment it must set out legal guarantees in the Environment Bill to ensure existing eco-laws aren’t watered down in a post-Brexit world. This bill does not offer that guarantee.
“A strong environmental watchdog is crucial, but will be useless without the resources, independence, and teeth to hold businesses and government to account.
A strong environmental watchdog is crucial, but will be useless without the resources, independence, and teeth to hold businesses and government to account
“Measures to stem the tide of plastic pollution pouring into our environment are certainly welcome, but ministers must get to the heart of the crisis by introducing a binding timetable to phase-out the use of all non-essential single-use plastic.”
Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: “We welcome the early reintroduction of the Environment Bill to the government’s legislative agenda. We view this as cementing the radical changes promised by the Resources & Waste Strategy, particularly in regard to bolstering the ‘polluter-pays’ principle.
“The ESA also welcomes the introduction of rules concerning the export of mixed plastics to non-OECD countries. This must be accompanied by measures that will unlock investment in domestic markets and demand for recycled product.
“This is a complex issue that ESA members have been working on for some time, to ensure that good markets can continue to be found for UK recycled material and that all exports, regardless of destination, are conducted with robust due-diligence procedures in place.”