Alistair Carmichael presents Bill to cut plastic pollution

A draft new law, setting legally binding targets for cutting plastic waste and pollution, will be re-introduced to Parliament today [5th November] by Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael.

Despite intense public concern about the scourge of plastic pollution over the past three years, and a number of welcome initiatives by companies, far tougher action is needed by the UK government to tackle the problem comprehensively.

Indeed, in recent months the problem has grown with discarded single-use face masks, and the refusal of many stores to accept re-usable coffee cups adding to the the well documented explosion of plastic pollution blighting our beaches, parks and natural spaces.

The Plastics Pollution Bill includes:

  • A 2025 target to end non-essential single-use plastics. A ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds came into force in England earlier this month. But other single use plastic items such as plates, cutlery and polystyrene plates and drink containers have not been included.
  • A statutory long-term target to significantly cut plastic waste and pollution by 2042 - by phasing out all but the most essential uses of plastic. The bill also requires plastic waste and pollution to have been substantially and progressively reduced before this date.
  • The establishment of an independent advisory Committee on Plastics Pollution (CPP)- to advise the government on policy measures to achieve statutory targets and develop a list of essential plastic uses that may not be phased out.

The Bill is supported by a cross-party group of MPs and a coalition of organisations including Friends of the Earth, Surfers Against Sewage, Keep Britain Tidy, Tearfund and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

Alistair Carmichael MP said:

“We need firm action on plastic pollution now, well beyond what we are already doing on climate change. Plastic pollution has not gone away with arrival of the pandemic and in some ways we have reversed progress – we have all seen the new scourge of disposable face masks around town. The pandemic may be with us for months more, but the damage done by plastic pollution and microplastics will be with us for decades, if not centuries.

“Every community – urban, rural, island – is affected by plastic pollution. Much of this plastic ends up in the sea, so we are as likely to find waste on the beaches in the Northern Isles as anywhere else. Still more concerning is the spread of microplastics – pollution that we cannot see.

“Where progress has been made already by government I have supported it but there is far too much still to be done. Plastic pollution cannot be treated like any other form of pollution – it demands a targeted response. The government must take this Bill seriously and consider the proposals for legally-binding targets.”

Friends of the Earth plastic pollution campaigner Camilla Zerr said:

“Legally-binding targets are urgently needed to stem the tide of plastic that continues to pour into our environment.

“Actions taken so far by companies and governments fall far short of what’s required and are just drops in a plastic-polluted ocean.

“We’re delighted Alistair Carmichael is championing this crucial issue, and urge MPs from all parties to back the Plastic Pollution Bill. 

“Ministers can still seize the initiative by incorporating the aims of this draft legislation into its flagship Environment Bill, currently passing through Parliament.”

Amy Slack, Head of Campaigns and Policy at Surfers Against Sewage said,

“At this critical time for the environment the Plastic Pollution Bill set’s the gold standard for tackling the plastic pollution crisis.

“For too long plastics have polluted the ocean and our beaches and its time that we see progressive policies that reduce plastic pollution. By adopting the measures in this Bill, the government would demonstrate the commitment already made to introduce world leading environmental legislation that tackles the root causes of the plastic pollution crisis.”

Ann Jones, National Federation of Women’s Institutes Vice Chair said:

“Across England, Wales and the Islands, WI members have expressed particular concern about the UK’s plastic pollution problem. The measures in the Plastics Pollution Bill provide the government with a real opportunity to robustly address the pernicious effects of plastics and provide international environmental leadership ahead of COP26 and beyond.”

Paul Cook, Head of Advocacy at Tearfund said:

“By introducing ambitious legislation to tackle plastic pollution at home, the UK government can provide more effective and vocal global leadership to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution affecting the environment and people living in poverty.”

Richard McIlwain, Deputy Chief Executive at Keep Britain Tidy said: 

“Reducing plastic production at its source is integral to tackling the litter and waste that blights our precious environment. 

“The measures in the Plastic Pollution Bill present a real opportunity for government to make a significant difference, strengthening our position as a global leader tackling the pollution caused by over consumption of plastics."

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