Prime Minister Theresa May today stopped short of introducing a deposit scheme for plastic drinks bottles, going only so far as to announce an extension of the carrier bag charge to smaller shops.
But, a deposit scheme for plastic bottles remains a possibility as consultations and discussions are taking place through Defra which will next month launch a call for evidence on single use charges and taxes.
The Prime Minister was speaking at the launch of Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s “25 Year Environment Strategy” which has been described as “radical” by the recycling minister, Therese Coffey.
Mrs May praised Michael Gove and his team for their “enthusiasm” and said that the strategy would deliver “clean air and a greener country for all”.
The wide-ranging strategy contains references to recycling and plastics. Mrs May’s speech, at the London Wetlands Centre, saw here talk of the “eight million tonnes of plastics which makes it way into the oceans each year”.
She effectively confirmed that it was the BBC’s Blue Planet programme with David Attenborough, as well as campaigning by the Daily Mail, that has prompted the government to act on plastics. She praised the BBC for “public service broadcasting at its finest”.
On plastics, Mrs May said: “Today I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership on plastics.. and we must reduce demand and increase recycling rates.”
Pledging action at every stage, Mrs May said that she would “encourage manufacturers to take responsibility and rationalise the types of plastics they use.” She also said that the different types of plastics needed to be reduced.
Supermarkets were targeted by the Prime Minister. She said that they need to do “much more” to cut down on unnecessary plastic packaging and that government will work with them to explore the topic and make it easier to recycle plastics.
She highlighted the fact that the carrier bag charge brought in in 2015 had the “direct conseqence that we have used nine billion fewer of them since the charge. This should inspire us and demonstrates the public is willing to play its part.
“We will extend this to smaller retailers to further extend usage and next month will launch a call for evidence on single use charges and taxes.”
And, waste and recycling is to be on the agenda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government this spring when they meet in London. This will include discussion of ways of preventing waste entering the sea and the UK’s aid budget may contribute towards waste improvement work in Commonwealth countries.
In a question and answer session after her speech, Mrs May didn’t rule out a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, saying “what matters is what works” and she recalling a time when she used to return Corona bottles for a “sixpence”.