Producers and consumers targeted
May pledges clampdown on ‘needless’ plastic waste
Waste mountains are growing around the world
Prime Minister Theresa May today launched her government’s green credentials with confirmation of plans to tackle plastic waste and pollution.
She dismissed any notion that free market economics and conservation were incompatible, saying innovation in an enterprise economy would help deliver new ways to protect the environment.
Her much-trailed crackdown on plastics was confirmed with a demand for manufacturers to change their products and processes and for there to be an improvement in recycling rates.
“We will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic,” Mrs May said in a keynote speech outlining a 25-year action plan.
“As it is produced, we will encourage manufacturers to take responsibility for the impacts of their products and rationalise the number of different types of plastics they use.
“As it is consumed, we will drive down the amount of plastic in circulation through reducing demand.”
She said Government will lead the way by “removing all consumer single use plastic in central government offices.”
She added: “I want to see other large organisations commit to doing the same.”
Mrs May also called on supermarkets to do much more to cut down on “unnecessary” plastic packaging.
“We will work with them to explore introducing plastic-free aisles, where all the food is sold loose.
“And we will make it easier for people to recycle their plastics, so less of it ends up in landfills or our waterways.”
She noted that nine billion fewer carrier bags had been issues since the 5p charge was introduced.
“This means the marine-life around the shores of the UK is safer, our local communities are cleaner and fewer plastic bags are ending up in landfill sites. This success should inspire us.
“It shows the difference we can make, and it demonstrates that the public is willing to play its part to protect our environment.”
The 5p plastic bag charge will be extended to all retailers as already applies in Scotland. Next month, the government will consult on imposing taxes or charges on single use plastics.
She said government will put the case for sustainable development of the oceans firmly on the international agenda.
Mrs May said that around the world, economies at all stages of development are embracing new low-carbon technologies and a more efficient use of resources to move onto a path of clean and sustainable growth.
“And our Industrial Strategy puts harnessing the economic potential of the clean growth revolution at its heart,” she said.
“New clean technologies have the potential to deliver more good jobs and higher living standards.
“The UK is already home to around half a million jobs in low carbon businesses and their supply chain.
“We are a world-leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles. We are the biggest offshore wind energy producer in the world.
“And we must continue to press for sustainable economic growth, and the immense benefits it brings.”
She added that these measures will be underpinned by appropriate regulation, even when Britain leaves the European Union.
“Brexit will not mean a lowering of environmental standards,” she said.
“We will set out our plans for a new, world leading independent statutory body to hold government to account and give the environment a voice. And our work will be underpinned by a strong set of environmental principles.
“But be in no doubt: our record shows that we have already gone further than EU regulation requires of us to protect our environment.
“Thanks to action we have taken, 7,886 square miles of coastal waters around the UK are now Marine Conservation Zones, protecting a range of nationally important, rare or threatened habitats and species.
“Our ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products is another positive step towards protecting our marine environment.
“And once we’ve taken back control of our waters, we will implement a more sustainable fishing policy that also supports our vital coastal communities.”
Jenny Hogan, deputy chief executive at Scottish Renewables, said: “The Prime Minister’s speech this morning reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to decarbonisation and provided some much-needed context on the scale of the transformation which is under way in our energy system.
“2017 saw the UK’s first day without coal power and Government forecasts this week have shown our reliance on fossil fuels is expected to decrease faster than expected because of the continued deployment of renewables.
“It is right that the Prime Minister should also acknowledge the UK’s world lead in offshore wind, which as a sector has proven how far costs can fall with access to competitive auction process.
“Clean growth is at the heart of the Government’s Industrial Strategy and its Cost of Energy Review concluded in October that renewables are ‘the new conventionals’ of energy generation.
“The time is now right to provide industry with certainty on its future plans for all renewable energy technologies – most pressingly onshore wind and large-scale solar, our cheapest sources of power, which remain largely locked out of the energy market following UK Government policy changes in 2015.”\
Mrs May’s comments were broadly welcomed though opposition MPs said her plans did not go far enough and the 25 year timescale needed shortening.