UK’s 25-year plastic waste plan

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

Aims to reduce “avoidable” plastic waste by 2042

THE UK government has launched a 25-year plan to protect the environment and reduce “avoidable” plastic waste specifically.

A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment was launched by Prime Minister Theresa May and environment secretary Michael Gove, and is intended to create richer habitats for wildlife, and improve air and water quality.

The government has already introduced a £0.05 (US$0.07) charge for plastic carrier bags from large retailers but now plans to extend this to all retailers. It will work with retailers to introduce plastic-free aisles in supermarkets and with the water industry to increase the number of free water fountains. Recycling and reusing plastics will be encouraged, and the government will launch a call for evidence this year to see how the tax system might be used to reduce single-use plastic waste.

The government also says it will meet all existing waste targets and develop ambitious future targets. It will also eliminate illegal waste sites and fly-tipping, reduce littering and significantly reduce marine plastic pollution. The goal is to have zero avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and zero avoidable waste by 2050.

Microbead ban

On 9 January a government ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads came into force. Microbeads are used in personal care products such as shower gel and toothpaste. They cannot be removed using conventional water treatment processes so end up in rivers and seas, where they harm wildlife. The plans were first announced in September 2016.

“In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly,” said May, adding: “We will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic. 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.”

This article is adapted from an earlier online version.

Article by Helen Tunnicliffe

Senior reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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