You’ve got to ride the wave and make the most of the huge publicity around single use plastics. But how ambitious should we be?  The difference in the ambition – setting the date for a ban of SUPs – between EU MPs and UK NGOs is probably just down to a quirk of timing. 

The European parliament has voted to ban single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers as part of a sweeping law against plastic waste that despoils beaches and pollutes oceans.

The vote by MEPs paves the way for a ban on single-use plastics to come into force by 2021 in all EU member states. The UK would have to follow the rules if it took part in and extended the Brexit transition period because of delays in finding a new arrangement with the EU.

The UK environment secretary, Michael Gove, who has previously sparred with the European commission over who is doing the most to cut down plastic pollution, also wants to curb single-use plastics. As well as targeting the most common plastic beach litter, the directive will ban single-use polystyrene cups and those made from oxo-degradable plastics that disintegrate into tiny fragments.

EU member states will have to introduce measures to reduce the use of plastic food containers and plastic lids for hot drinks. By 2025, plastic bottles should be made of 25% recycled content, and by 2029 90% of them should be recycled.

Wildlife & Countryside Link – UK phase out by 2025

The Government must phase-out all non-essential single-use plastics by 2025 to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution, say 19 leading environment charities [1], coordinated by Wildlife and Countryside Link. This could save more than 4,000 billion pieces of unnecessary single-use plastic waste being consumed in the UK between 2026 – 2042 [2], helping to slash the ‘toxic plastic soup’ ending up in our oceans, rivers and countryside.

In a joint report published today, 19 organisations concerned with the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and wildlife, are calling for a wholesale transition away from single-use plastic. This, they say, must be an urgent priority if the government truly wants to fulfil its pledge to be a global leader in tackling plastic pollution.

Dr Sue Kinsey of Marine Conservation Society said: ‘Plastic pollution is an environmental emergency and Government needs to treat it as such. The damage our ‘throwaway’ culture has done to our seas is clear. We urgently need to reduce the amount of plastic we produce and use if we’re to lead the way in turning the plastic tide. This is essential to create a genuine circular economy system in the UK where ‘waste’ is valued as a resource and used time and time again rather than polluting our countryside, coasts and seas.

Juliet Phillips of Environmental Investigation Agency said: ‘Plastic pollutes at each stage of its life cycle, from extraction to disposal. It’s increasingly clear that we cannot recycle our way out of this crisis: the focus must instead emphasise reduction. To date, measures proposed by the UK Government fall short of incentivising the wholescale transition so urgently needed away from a single use society. We call for the adoption of measures that reduce dependency on all non-essential plastic items and packaging, supporting companies to rethink their supply chains and delivery models’ 

Julian Kirby of Friends of the Earth said: ‘Single-use plastic is having a devastating effect on our planet and wildlife – we simply cannot go on throwing away our planet’s future on a daily basis like this. The government must move urgently to end the plastic pollution plague that’s swamping our precious blue planet.’

In the joint report published today, the groups say the number-one priority for the Government must be a reduction in the production and consumption of plastic items, followed by an increase in reuse and, finally, simple and cost-effective recycling, preferably within the UK. Click here to read more and download the report

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