United Kingdom launches 25-year plastic waste plan

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street On January 10 | Neil Hall  EPA

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street On January 10 | Neil Hall EPA

She continued to describe plastics waste as "one of the great environmental scourges of our time". "We urge Government to work with our industry on the detail of its new Resources and Waste Strategy to develop a world leading approach for the United Kingdom". "Whatever we do [in regards to plastic packaging] we must not risk increasing food waste".

In addition to the expected extension of the 5p plastics bag levy and a possible charge on single-use plastics containers, the Prime Minister confirmed other initiatives will include include plastics packaging free supermarket aisles, where food is sold loose, along with new research funding for "plastics innovation" and aid to help developing nations deal with their plastics waste. Additionally, taxation on single-use items will be considered. Reportedly, businesses, industry, governments, local authorities, NGOs, media and society will be involved in defining a plastics system that works and to develop a circular economy.

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"In 2015, we introduced the 5 pence charge on plastic carrier bags, we now see 9 billion fewer bags being used", said the premier, who signalled the move last week. Microbeads will no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products, according to the ban.

May said: "We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals into rivers was ever the right thing to do". "We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates".

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Environment groups said the most glaring omission in May's scheme was the lack of support for deposit return schemes that pay consumers to return plastic bottles after use and are common in many parts of the world including Denmark, Germany and Australia.

"This could be a turning point for the UK's relationship with the environment, where we begin to restore nature rather than destroy it. Through this plan we will build on our reputation as a global leader in environmental protection, creating an environment everyone can enjoy and helping the next generation flourish", said Gove.

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However, in a statement, the British Plastic Federation (BPF) said that it was "very disturbed" at the tone of the Prime Minister's language and it did not recognise the 170,000 jobs that the plastics industry brings to the UK. Cutting out plastic packaging for fresh produce will actually harm the environment through increased Carbon dioxide emissions because the energy used to produce food is much greater than in the packaging protecting it.

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