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Recyclers ‘let down’ by absent policies

MPs call for bold national Plastic Packaging Plan to help consumers, protect our oceans and create green UK jobs
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Recyclers 'let down' by absent policies

If the UK wants to be a global environmental leader, it can no longer afford to sweep its plastic rubbish problem under other countries’ carpets, says a new report today (12 February). It calls for a bold national policy framework to reduce ocean plastic overseas and boost domestic infrastructure investment, innovation and green jobs.

A circular resource

The report from UK think-tank Policy Connect says an ambitious new roadmap is needed to deliver a coherent circular and sustainable plastics policy that consumers feel proud of and protects marine life from UK plastic.

The new report –‘ Plastics Packaging Plan: Achieving Net Zero ‘Waste’ Exports’ – is backed by 12 cross-party politicians and says the UK must urgently take back control of its share of the global plastics problem, highlighted in Sir David Attenborough’s hard-hitting Blue Planet TV series. It calls for new UK policies so UK plastic becomes a circular industrial resource, rather than exportable waste or environmental pollution.

A Plastic Packaging Plan

The report contains 18 policy recommendations needed to develop a national Plastic Packaging Plan.

It stops short of calling for a ban on exports but says the UK would benefit politically, economically, socially and environmentally from prioritising domestic processing over export.

UK consumers want to do more for the environment, the report states, so government must make it easier for local authorities to help them recycle more. The UK has the specialist innovation and skills to lead the global waste management sector.

UK producers of plastic waste must urgently rethink packaging design, boost their recycling leadership ambition and innovation and drive greater demand for UK recyclates in UK production.

The report states that the government must accelerate a radical and circular UK plastics plan policy, to cut plastic use (especially virgin plastic) and set clear policy targets, including a zero-export of plastic packaging ‘waste’ by 2030.

It also advises government, producers and retailers to make packaging simpler and easier for consumers to recycle, and states the government must set clear and bold targets for all local authorities.

‘Britain’s used plastic export habit is costing our economy and the planet. We can no longer sweep our plastic rubbish problem under other countries’ carpets.

‘British consumers want to recycle more but our lack of UK reprocessing plants and circular policies are letting them down. We need a bold national plastics plan that we can all be proud of to protect the marine environment, to kick-start infrastructure investment and jobs, and to boost UK demand for recycled plastics.’

Chief executive of Policy Connect

Jacob Ainscough, author of the new Policy Connect report said: ‘Our oceans and their marine life are in crisis. Bolder UK regulations on packaging waste must deliver zero-export in UK plastic packaging by 2030. Our market-based recommendations in this report are backed by cross-party and business support and show that our environment and economy have much to gain from a radical, circular national plastic policy.’

The plastics problem

The UK uses 3.3m tonnes of plastic packaging every year, well above the EU average. Between 2010-17, the UK exported 4.15m metric tonnes of plastic packaging ‘waste’, enough to fill Wembley stadium 26 times.

As China closes its ports to low quality UK recyclates, we need three times UK recycling infrastructure and jobs to handle this problem.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee says, “Exporting two thirds of the UK’s plastic waste overseas is bad for jobs, business and our environment. I welcome the call for the UK to commit to a bold target of zero exports of plastic packaging by 2030. Achieving this will require home-grown solutions such as implementing a Deposit Return Scheme by 2022 and applying a coffee cup levy as my Committee recommended. We can and must transition from exporting our plastic waste problem to growing our own

Click here for more about the MPs who want to turn off the plastics tap.

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