‘Any single use items’ could face charges

An amendment to the Environment Bill which would allow ministers to apply a charge to all single use items, not just those made of plastic, was agreed in the House of Commons yesterday (20 October).

Under the amendment, ministers can apply a charge to all single use items (Picture: Shutterstock)

The amendment had been tabled along with several others in the House of Lords, and were being discussed by MPs in the Commons this week.

Most amendments were rejected, including those relating to biodiversity, particulate matter and sewage discharge.

However, the final amendment to be discussed was one tabled by Viscount Colville of Culross, to add “any other single use material” to the list of items ministers can apply charges to.

As introduced, the Environment Bill stipulated that such a charge can only be applied to are single use items which “are made wholly or partly of plastic”.

The amendment looked to add “ any other single use material” to this line.

This charge will help us to future-proof the bill and protect the environment for generations

  • Rebecca Pow, nature minister

‘Powerful tool’

After a series of rejections, the nature minister Rebecca Pow said she was “happy to finish these proceedings on a really positive note” and agree to the amendment to expand the charge.

Nature minister Rebecca Pow backed the amendment, saying it will help promote reuse and recycling

Mrs Pow said: [The amendment] will allow the charge to be imposed on single-use items made from any material, not just plastic. This charge will help us to future-proof the bill and protect the environment for generations to come by providing a powerful tool to incentivise the right shifts towards more reusable alternatives to single-use items and towards a circular economy. We want to take this opportunity to strengthen our hand and encourage citizens to reduce, recycle and reuse”.

The move could be significant as things such as wooden stirrers and paper straws could now face a charge, although exactly how this is will be worked out is unclear.

The bill with the rejected and the accepted amendments will now go back to the Lords, who will have the opportunity to review the bill again.

It’s been rumoured the Lords may wish to make further amendments to try to force the government’s hand, as it is desperate to ensure the bill receive royal assent before COP26, which is looking increasingly difficult.

‘Taken action’

The move was welcomed by Labour’s shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard who said he was pleased the minister had chosen to listen to concerns about throwaway culture.

Mr Pollard said: “Since the pandemic hit us, much of the progress that had been made in addressing single-use plastics has gone into reverse, with more single-use plastics being used and more being disposed of, including the emerging threat to much wildlife of PPE being disposed of in an inappropriate way. I am glad that the Minister has taken action to listen to the concerns of the Lords, which will now include extension of the single-use charge to other items that accompany this. That is a positive step and Labour Members support her in doing so. I invite her to look again at some of the other aspects around this that we have discussed today.

“It is important to finish this Bill soon. It is an okay Bill—it is bit meh—but we do need the measures in it to be put in place soon. I know that it will be considered again by our friends in the Lords next week”.

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