UK Prime Minister Theresa May has unveiled a plan to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. Reuters reports that by placing a new environmental agenda center stage, “May is keen to put divisions over leaving the European Union, scandals and an ill-judged election behind her and try to broaden the appeal of her Conservative Party.”
May announced the initiative during a speech today at the London Wetlands Centre. Highlighting the issue of plastics pollution, May said that people in the future would be "shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly," reported the Guardian. The only immediate new policy, however, was to extend a 5 pence charge for plastic bags to smaller shops in England, added the article. Small shops have been exempt from the plastic bag fee, unlike in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the fee has been successfully implemented across the board.
The plan also encourages the development of “plastic-free supermarket aisles.” The government will explore whether supermarkets can introduce aisles where there is no plastic packaging and all the food is loose, according to the Guardian.
Setting an example in the eradication of avoidable plastic waste, May said that the government would seek to reduce single-use plastics in its workplace and suggested that other large organizations should consider banning staff from using them in their workplace, as well.
The 25-year green plan also includes a number of exploratory proposals to expand habitat for wildlife and protected areas along the coast and create a statutory environmental watchdog.
Responding to May’s speech, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) said in a press release that it was “disturbed” by the tone, which “does not recognize the important benefits that the plastics industry brings to the UK, including 170,000 jobs.” The association makes the point, as has PlasticsToday in numerous articles, that plastics save energy, enable fuel savings in vehicles and aircraft through lightweighting and prevent food waste. “Plastics should not be in the sea,” adds the BPF, “and it is right that the UK, alongside other developed nations, should set an example of best practice.” It goes on to say that much of the plastics in the ocean come from “less developed economies of Asia, which have rudimentary waste management systems.” It also calls for a tougher stance on littering.
May’s proposals did not entirely please environmental groups, either. Pressure groups gave a lukewarm response to the plan, “praising its ambition but warning that it lacked sufficient proposals for immediate action,” writes the Guardian.
“It is a long-term plan, it’s about the next 25 years,” May responded. “But it’s a plan which I think speaks to everybody who has an interest in our environment and everybody who wants to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy a beautiful environment.”