25-Year Environment Plan unveiled by the government

11th January 2018

Cherry Whittaker

Today, 11 January 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to create a 'cleaner greener Britain' through the government's new environment strategy, which is to stretch over 25 years

A key element of this 25-year plan is May's promise to eliminate all unnecessary plastic waste in the UK by 2042. To assist in achieving this and to tackle the "throw-away" culture, the plan includes; extending the 5p plastic bag charge to all English retailers, introducing 'plastic-free' aisles in supermarkets, consideration of charges for single-use items such as takeaway containers, funding for plastics innovation and a pledge to help developing nations tackle and reduce pollution/plastic waste.

However, despite these positive proposals, there is a general consensus that 25 years is too long of a time scale and not enough concrete change is being proposed. This opinion is shared by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn. Many environmental groups, including Greenpeace, are unhappy that the plan will have no clear legal impact, and that there doesn't seem to have been any mention of a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). 

On the topic of Deposit Return Schemes, politician Michael Gove spoke today on Radio 4 about the fact that the government is currently consulting on a DRS and also mentioned that he is happy to review “the latte levy”, which is looking at placing 25p charges on disposable coffee cups. However, this topic was already raised last year by previous environmental under-secretary Rory Stewart, yet was immediately shut down by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who stated there were “No Plans” for it. 

Gove also discussed his "4-point plan" idea to tackle the plastic waste threat, which is summarised below:

  • Reduce the amount of plastic in circulation
  • Ensure Fewer types of plastic are in use
  • Ensure plastics are recycled more / designed for recycling
  • Reform PRN (packaging recovery note) scheme

Similarly related is Therese Coffey's statement made yesterday regarding the EU proposed recycling targets (CE packaging targets), saying that she doesn't support the weight based targets and would suggest that post-Brexit we move away from the targets and set our own resource efficiency based ones. We will post relevant, updated news stories regarding this, as and when further information is released. 

On a wider outlook, Theresa May has also said the government intend to take a stand against the "profligate" use of natural resources with its 25-year plan. Last week, she announced that over the course of the plan timescale, 50 million trees would be planted in a "Northern Forest" spread along the M62 between Liverpool and Hull, to increase natural habitats and give people access to more woodland environments.

From a compliance perspective, a key part of the new 25-year environment strategy, includes the proposal of reforming the Producer Responsibility systems (including packaging waste regulations) to incentivise producers to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products. This will include exploring extending producer responsibility requirements to plastic products not currently covered by our existing regimes, to create a better market for recycled plastic. To read further about this, click here to see our news story dedicated to the topic and find out how to provide your opinions to help us shape our lobbying efforts prior to the government consulting (2018/19).