Thank you for writing to me about plastic pollution.
The Resources and Waste Strategy for England sets out the Government’s plans to reduce, reuse, and recycle more plastic than we do now. Ministers have committed to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable or reusable by 2025.
Significant progress has already been made to address plastic pollution, including a ban on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and restricting the supply of plastic straws, plastic drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. The use of single-use carrier bags in the main supermarkets has been reduced by over 97 per cent. The charge for carrier bags was increased to ten pence and extended to all retailers.
The Government is considering proposals to ban single-use plastic plates, cutlery, and balloon sticks, expanded and extruded polystyrene food and beverage containers, as well as other plastic items, including wet wipes and other single-use cups.
The Environment Act requires the Government to set at least one long-term target in the areas of resource efficiency and waste reduction. The Government recently consulted on its target to reduce residual waste. Over 180,000 submissions were received, and I look forward to reading the Government’s response.
I understand that setting individual, material-specific legally binding targets, such as a plastics waste reduction target, could risk shifting the environmental impact to other material types and could even lead to increases in residual waste due to switches to heavier materials. Ministers aim to take a holistic approach to all materials and avoid unintended substitution effects. As well as bringing significant global environmental waste and pollution issues, plastics are also strong, durable, and versatile materials, bringing economic benefits. Setting targets that encourage reductions in our consumption of materials more broadly, not only plastics, will help ensure the best environmental outcome.
Finally, the export of plastic waste is subject to strict controls in legislation. Businesses must ensure that the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling. Individuals and businesses found to be exporting waste in contravention of the legislation can face a two-year jail term and an unlimited fine.
The Government wants to deal with more of our waste at home and I understand Ministers committed to banning the export of plastic waste to countries which are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Environment Act contains a power that will enable the Government to deliver on this commitment.
Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking