Her Majesty Queen today confirmed in her speech to Parliament that environmental measures on a number of fronts are to be included in the government’s programme for the next Parliamentary session – and she mentioned “plastic pollution”.
While the question of delivery by the current government of the proposals remains open in the light of a potential General Election, the package as it stands is set to have a major impact on the waste and recycling sector.
The Queen said: “My ministers remain committed to protecting and improving the environment for future generations.
“For the first time environmental principles will be enshrined in law. Measures will be introduced to improve air and water quality, to tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive. Legislation will also create new legally binding environmental improvement targets.
Her Majesty continued: “A new world leading independent regulator will be established in statue, to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action. Proposals will also be brought forward.”
The new regulator is needed in light of the expected departure of the UK from the European Union. At present it would be the European Commission which would take action against the UK, for example, for failing to achieve statutory EU recycling targets. In the future this task is likely to sit with the proposed new body which will be called the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).
The measures are to be introduced in the Environment Bill, which was first announced by the then Prime Minister Theresa May in July 2018.
Already published is a draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill which focuses on general principles and regulation and this is expected to be absorbed into the wider Environment Bill, which is yet to be published.
Waste and recycling
Crucial indications of how core waste and recycling measures are to be implemented are unlikely to be detailed in the Bill. While it is likely to include measures to tackle single use plastics, to introduce a Deposit Return System, the extension of Producer Responsibility, and measures for a more consistent approach to what materials are collected from the household, the detail is likely to come later.
What will be in the Bill is expected to be enabling paragraphs so that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can develop policies after further consultations with the recycling sector and others.