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Government steps up war on waste

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Plastic bag in ocean

There has been widespread coverage of our recent announcements aimed at ramping up the war on plastic and boosting recycling levels in England.

BBC News Online, Sky News Online, Daily Mirror, Daily Express and i News covered our announcement that the single-use carrier bag charge will be increased from 5p to 10 and extended to all businesses in England from 21 May.

As a result of the carrier bag charge, the average person in England now buys just four single-use carrier bags a year from the main supermarkets, compared with 140 in 2014.

The charge has seen a 95% cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets since 2015. By extending the charge to all retailers, it is expected that the use of single-use carrier bags will decrease by 70-80% in small and medium-sized businesses.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

The introduction of the 5p charge has been a phenomenal success, driving down sales of harmful plastic bags in supermarkets by a remarkable 95%.

We know we must go further to protect our natural environment and oceans, which is why we are now extending this charge to all businesses.

Over the next couple of weeks I urge all retailers of all sizes to make sure they are ready for the changes, as we work together to build back greener and strengthen our world-leading action to combat the scourge of plastic waste.

The announcement forms the latest step in the Government’s fight against single-use plastics to protect our environment and clean up our oceans.  In its war against plastic pollution, the Government has already banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and prohibited the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England. Meanwhile, A world-leading plastic packaging tax will be introduced from April 2022 for products which do not have at least 30% recycled content.

There was also coverage over the weekend in the i, Sun, Express, Daily Mail and Telegraph of our announcement that every home in England will receive easier and more consistent recycling collections, under new plans to boost recycling and help the country reach our target of eliminating all avoidable waste by 2050.

Under proposals unveiled by ministers on Friday 7 May, every household will receive separate, weekly food waste collections from 2023, which will stop the build-up of smelly waste that attracts flies and pests.

In the consultation, the Government also set out plans to make recycling easier with a clear list of materials that all local authorities and waste firms must collect from homes and businesses, specifically plastic, paper and card, glass, metal and food waste, as well as garden waste for households. This means we will end the confusion for millions of homes and businesses having different collections in different areas, helping households recycle more and send less waste to landfill.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

Householders want more frequent recycling collections. Regular food and garden waste collections will ensure that they can get rid of their rubbish faster, at no additional cost to them.

Our proposals will boost recycling rates, and ensure that less rubbish is condemned to landfill.

The proposals for consistent collections are part of the Government’s wider programme of major waste reforms which will boost recycling, step-up our war on plastic pollution and tackle litter. In March, a second round of consultations were also launched for Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, which will see packaging firms covering the full net cost of managing their packaging waste, and a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers, where consumers will be incentivised to return and recycle their bottles and cans.

You can respond to the consultation by clicking here.

Follow Defra on Twitter, and sign up for email alerts here.

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  1. Comment by Bethan Jones posted on

    Please consider applying this to general levels of plastic packaging around food - especially fruit and veg. It is completely unnecessary and imagine the impact if we got rid of all that plastic? It would make an enormous change almost immediately and it is so easy to implement - much like the 5p carrier bag - just tell businesses that this type of packaging has to and will be coming to an end and a continuation of its use will raise a levy on companies not complying.
    We need to do so much more and we have proven we can do it! Please lets build, meaningfully, on this success and show the world we can lead the way.

  2. Comment by William Hughes-Games posted on

    Your war on plastic bags is simply a device to re-direct the attention of the public from far more serious problems. Are you truly interested in solving the problem of mountains of plastics, both dirty and clean, of mountains of used tires, of mountains of discarded electronic equipment, of masses of wood waste. To bastardize Tolkin, there is one technology that controls them all.

  3. Comment by Tony Bane posted on

    I think we all realise Government want bring in environmental measures incrementally to give manufacturers etc time to adjust and of course what must worry Government is a drop in tax revenue due to these measures. But if you listen to David Attenborough’s message aired on line today then you will know that environmental measures to protect the planet are pretty urgent and time is running out. So let’s take the bull by the horns and ban plastic bags all together. It can be done.