Without urgent action to cut demand, it is estimated 34 billion tonnes of plastic will have been manufactured globally by 2050. The new 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment commits the Government to working to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, with action at each stage of the product lifecycle: production, consumption and end of life.
Producer responsibility systems including packaging waste regulations will be reformed, which may result in extending these requirements to more products. Earlier this year, the Government launched a consultation on a world-leading tax on plastic packaging which does not contain a minimum of 30 per cent recycled content from April 2022. These plans could revolutionise the market for recycled products.
The UK’s world-leading ban on microbeads will help stop potentially billions of tiny pieces of plastic from entering the aquatic environment every year. As well as this, 15.6 billion fewer bags have been handed out to shoppers by the seven main retailers since the introduction of the plastic bag charge in 2015. I am also pleased that following an open consultation, a ban on the supply of plastic straws – excluding those needed for medical purposes - drinks stirrers and cotton buds will come into force in April next year.
Demand for single-use plastic will be cut and the Government will soon consult on extending the highly successful single use plastic bag charge to small retailers. Businesses will be encouraged to offer new, free refill points for water bottles to be topped up, and work with retailers will explore introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles.
Lastly I am pleased that the UK has also committed a £61.4 million package of funding to boost global research and help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the oceans.
Plastic Pollution in Rivers
Let me assure you of my commitment to leaving the environment in a better condition than when we inherited it. I believe that we all need to be more conscious of the waste we create and the importance of recycling. The best approach to stemming the flow of plastic is by taking action on land. However, an official report released earlier this year suggested that the Scottish Government's plan to ban landfill waste by 2021 is wildly off target - and could cost Scotland's economy more than £1 billion.
It is clear that everyone accepts progress has to be made when it comes to recycling and disposing of waste but the Scottish Government appear to have have run out of ideas on how to do this. Our oceans are filling with plastic and other waste and, on top of this, vast quantities of Scottish plastic waste are exported rather than being recycled here in Scotland. I believe that a Scottish Recycling Plant would not only increase recycling rates, but also create jobs in Scotland. It would also ensure that plastic is not exported and then, in some cases, dropped into our rivers and oceans.
Last updated July 2019