The environment bill has been brought forward for its second reading at the House of Commons this afternoon (26 February), with the Labour shadow environment secretary saying his party will not oppose it at this stage.
The bill passed its first reading without discussion on 30 January (see letsrecycle.com story).
Following the conclusion of the second reading this evening, the bill will then go to the committee stage for further scrutiny.
Environment secretary George Eustice said: “The Prime Minster is clear – and so am I – we will deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth.
“This transformative bill is at the heart of our work. It will see us recycling more and wasting less, breathing cleaner air, planting trees, safeguarding forests, and supporting nature recovery as we work to tackle climate change and reach net zero emissions.”
The introduction of the environment bill follows the UK’s departure from the European Union, which brought in the Waste Framework Directive from which much of the UK’s waste legislation derives.
“We will deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth”
Defra says it will transform how resources and waste are managed in the UK, and the bill gives ministers the relevant powers to make legislation changes.
A string of further consultations are expected in the late summer months on the ambitions set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy, including Extended Producer Responsibility, a plastics tax and consistent collections.
Other powers in the bill cover the introduction of deposit return scheme for drinks containers to incentivise recycling, and the ability of ministers to ban or restrict the export and import of waste (including polluting plastic) between the UK and non-OECD countries.
When the bill was re-introduced after the December election, a two-yearly review of legislation across the world was also added.
Mr Eustice referenced Part 3 of the bill as that which affects the waste and resources sector.
Mr Eustice said: “Part 3 of the bill will help us accomplish greater resource efficiency and a better approach to waste through more circular ways of using the planet’s finite resources.
“It will encourage manufacturers to develop innovative packaging and strong sustainability standards by making them responsible for the entire net cost of disposing of used packaging.
“It will stimulate the creation of alternatives to the single-use plastics which wreaked havoc on the marine environment while establishing consistent rules to help people recycle more easily across our country and giving us powers to set up deposit return schemes.”
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard expressed concerns the bill was not comprehensive enough.
Mr Pollard, who was appointed shadow secretary (see letsrecycle.com story) last month, said: “As a nation we need a gold standard environment bill. I agree with the minister when he says that we need that world-leading legislation, but this is not that world-leading legislation.
“It still looks like a draft bill. It hasn’t had complete pre-legislative scrutiny for the entire bill, which I think it needs.
“It lacks coherence between the different sections of the bill, and it lacks the ambition to tackle the climate crisis as a whole with a comprehensive and renewed strategy.”
However, Mr Pollard said Labour would not oppose the bill at this stage.