At the State Opening of Parliament today (19 December) the Queen said environmental measures on several fronts – including a ban on plastic exports – were to be enshrined into law as part of a proposed environment bill.
She told assembled MPs and Lords that environmental principles and targets were to be addressed in the bill by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government during the new parliamentary session.
Plastic exports are to be banned to countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has 36 member countries, the majority of whom are in Europe.
She said: “To protect and improve the environment for future generations, a bill will enshrine in law the environmental principles and legally binding targets, including for air quality.
“It will also ban the export of polluting plastic waste to countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and establish a new world-leading independent regulator in statute.”
The relevant part of the Queen’s speech can be seen below:
Many from within the waste sector have been quick to react and say they support the proposal on plastic exports.
Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: “For many in our sector, this will feel like Groundhog Day, with a Queen’s Speech announcing new environmental legislation for the second time in nine weeks – including steps to meet net zero carbon by 2050, legally binding targets on air quality and the establishment of a ‘world leading independent regulator’ for the environment.
“However, this time, it also included reference to a ban on the export of plastic outside of the OECD, which was included in the Conservative manifesto.
“On this latter point, ESA fully supports the principle of responsible export, and we look forward to working with the Government to ensure that the proposed ban goes hand-in-hand with other measures to stimulate domestic demand for recyclable materials, and the delivery of new infrastructure and that it ensures good recyclable material is not sent for disposal.”
And, a Biffa spokesperson said: “We welcome the renewed focus on the environment in the Queen’s speech today and believe the ban on the export of plastic waste to countries outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is a step in the right direction.
“More broadly, with the new government in place we need to see momentum quickly re-established with the successful passage of an effective Environment Bill that brings much needed regulation to support the innovation and investment that the waste industry is driving.”
From Suez, the company’s CEO David Palmer-Jones, said: “We are pleased that environmental protection and enhancement is back at the heart of the Queen’s Speech following an election campaign that saw environmental issues rise in prominence driven by voters desire to protect our natural capital.
“We urge the Government to maintain the momentum behind the Environment Bill to bring about the systemic change needed that will ultimately see businesses radically alter their entire approach to waste, designing in recovery and re-use of the materials used in their products.”
The new regulator is needed in light of the UK’s impending departure from the European Union on 31 January 2020, and the Queen said in her speech Brexit would be the priority of the new government.
Mr Hayler said: “It would seem that we are finally entering a period of political stability, and ESA members will no doubt be pleased that the new government is wasting no time in cracking on with a legislative agenda to deliver on its pledges for the environment, even if the timeline is ultimately being driven by the government’s desire to exit the EU by the end of January.”
At present it would be the European Commission which would act against the UK, for failing to achieve statutory EU recycling targets, for example.
In the future this task will likely sit with the proposed new body, which will be called the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).
A number of other environmental measures on several fronts were mentioned in the speech.
The Queen said: “My government will continue to take steps to meet the world-leading target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“It will continue to lead the way in tackling global climate change, hosting the COP26 summit in 2020.”
Today’s speech follows hot on the heels of the Queen’s last in October, with the most recent parliamentary session beginning only three months ago (see letsrecycle.com story).