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Will Government measures to reduce plastic waste be just a drop in a plastic-polluted ocean?

9 July 2021

It is estimated thatfive million tonnes of plastic are used in the UK every year, of which almost half is packaging. By 2042, the Government has set a target of eliminating all 'avoidable' plastic waste, with measures including a plastic packaging tax and deposit return scheme introduced in pursuit of this goal.

Plastic waste inquiry launch

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee launch a new inquiry into Plastic Waste, scrutinising how the UK Government intends to tackle its plastics problem, and whether its targets go far enough.

Despite high-profile campaigns to encourage recycling and reduce plastic use, just 32% of all plastic is currently recycled. Concerns have also been raised regarding the volume of plastic packaging waste- equivalent to three and a half Olympic swimming pools' worth of plastics every day- that is exported to other countries, where some has been found to end up being dumped or burnt rather than recycled.

The cross-party Committee will now be exploring the measures announced by the Government to achieve both its 2042 goal, and its shorter-term ambition of working towards only recyclable, reusable or compostable plastic packaging being placed on the market by 2025. MPs will also question how alternatives to plastic can be found and supported, and what more can be done to ensure that plastic waste is not sent abroad simply to be dumped.

Send us your views

The Committee is seeking answers to the following questions, with an initial deadline of 10th September:

  1. What measures should the UK Government take to reduce the production and disposal of single-use plastics in England? Are the measures announced so far, including a ban on certain single-use plastics and a plastic packaging tax, sufficient?
  2. How should alternatives to plastic consumption be identified and supported, without resorting to more environmentally damaging options?
  3. Is the UK Government’s target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by 2042 ambitious enough?
  4. Will the UK Government be able to achieve its shorter-term ambition of working towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025?
  5. Does the UK Government need to do more to ensure that plastic waste is not exported and then managed unsustainably? If so, what steps should it take?

Chair's comments

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Committee, said:

"We have a plastics problem. Over the past 18 months, even the most environmentally conscious of us have had to resort to single-use plastics in our efforts to control the spread of covid-19. But the tide must turn on plastic use, and fast.

"The Government has announced many new measures to combat our reliance on disposable packaging and products. It is essential that these measures go far- and fast- enough, and that we do not just end up exporting our problem overseas."

Further information

Image: Unsplash