I remember watching Sir David Attenborough’s fantastic natural history TV series ‘Life on Earth’ many years ago in my youth. I don’t claim to be some environmental expert, but even then it struck me just how fragile life is and the impact changes to our ecosystem can have on animals and humans alike.
Attenborough’s latest TV series, Blue Planet II, highlights, amongst other things, the threat caused to marine life from plastic waste which is sadly growing in our oceans.
Without urgent action to cut demand, plastic production is likely to reach 34 billion tonnes by 2050, the majority of which will end up in landfill or polluting the world's continents and oceans. Re-using and recycling plastics is critical.
In response the Government has launched a new ‘25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’ which commits the Government to working to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. It sets out a four-point plan for action at each stage of the product lifecycle: production, consumption and end of life.
Producer responsibility systems, including packaging waste regulations, will be reformed and this will include exploring extending these requirements to more products. Building on the microbeads ban, the Government will look into whether other problematic products should be banned where there are suitable alternatives.
Demand for single-use plastic will be cut. All consumer single use plastics will be removed from central government estate offices, and uptake of the highly successful 5p plastic bag charge extended to small retailers. Businesses will be encouraged to offer new, free refill points for water bottles to be topped up, and work with retailers will explore introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles, where all the food is loose.
Later this year there will be consultations on banning the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds, with exemptions for straws used for medical reasons. We will also consult on a plan, currently under development, for a deposit return scheme for single use drinks containers.
The British Government is demonstrating international leadership in reducing plastic waste, and anyone who cares about the environment should welcome this focus.