The Prime Minister Theresa May declared a ‘war on plastic’ last week as she revealed her 25 year environmental plan.
She has committed to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by the year 2042, stating that she wishes to “make ours the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it”.
It was confirmed that the 5p charge for carrier bags would be extended to all shops, in contrast to current laws which state that shops with fewer than 250 employees are exempt from this rule. This will bring England into line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Island, where the charge already applies to all retailers regardless of their size.
The government has also vowed to urge industries to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of the products they create. The PM promised that the government will work alongside supermarkets in order to encourage them to introduce plastic-free aisles to their stores.
An increase in the number of water fountains will be encouraged in a bid to reduce the amount of waste generated from plastic water bottles, and a ‘Northern Forest’ will be created between Cheshire and Lancashire.
Taxes on single use items such as disposable cups are also to be considered by the government, with civil servants being tasked to investigate the ideas further. This comes after calls for a so called ‘latte levy’ of 25p from several MPs. Coffee shop have recently started to give in to the pressure caused by these demands, with large chains such as ‘Costa Coffee’ and ‘Pret a Manger’ offering large discounts to any customers bringing their own cups.
Although the government’s intention to reduce plastic waste has been commended by many organisations, the plan itself has come under criticism by many environmental groups who are disappointed that the plan has not yet been underpinned by any new laws. A statement from Greenpeace has accused the plan of not matching “the scale of the environmental crisis we face”, and Friends of the Earth have said that, although a plan is clearly needed, we “can’t afford to wait a quarter of a century” to make these important changes.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Vince Cable has said the extended timescale of the plan shows a “complete lack of ambition”, whilst the shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman described the pledges as “a cynical attempt at rebranding”.