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Britain must lead the way on plastic waste by ending plastics exports

Britain must lead the way on plastic waste by ending plastics exports
3 min read

Lib Dem spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Wera Hobhouse MP writes to mark World Ocean’s Day that "the urgency of dealing with our addiction to plastics is more important than ever".

This weekend for World Ocean’s Day we saw people around the world not only celebrating our oceans and marine wildlife, but talking about how important it is we protect it. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, amongst other campaigns, have firmly put saving our oceans at the forefront of the public’s consciousness.

In recent weeks Malaysia has become the latest country to ban imports of plastic waste. The banning of imports of plastic waste is a vital measure in protecting third world countries from the impacts of Western over-consumption of plastics. 

Equally, the Philippines has been embroiled in a diplomatic row with Canada about collecting waste, which also shows how waste (plastic or otherwise) is dividing our world. 

It goes without saying that the wealthiest countries, like us, who have the privilege of the means to be able to sustainably deal with waste, need to accept responsibility instead of shipping plastic waste around the world for poorer countries to deal with. 

This begins with increasing and developing our recycling facilities. If we cannot recycle it, we shouldn’t be using it. 

The Tory Government is dragging its heels on dealing with the problem – it grabbed the headlines with bans on plastic straws and coffee stirrers – but has yet to bring in its deposit return scheme or its tax on new plastics. We need quick action instead of empty promises and piecemeal measures that look good in a press release.

The Liberal Democrats have a bill before Parliament to tackle this problem, which aims to ban all non-essential single-use plastics by 2025, and for the Government to meaningfully tackle plastic pollution by 2042. This is supported by powerful associations such as the Women’s Institute and Friends of the Earth, however the Conservatives have refused to.

Britain’s economy fails to make the most efficient use of natural resources. The Conservatives must stop sticking their heads in the sand and join us putting forward measures to move towards a ‘circular economy’. By minimising resource use, waste and pollution and extending product lifetimes, we will not only help cut waste, but it will also cut costs for consumers and create jobs. There is no reason not to act other than indifference.

Much like the Climate Crisis, plastics in our oceans are not just a UK problem, we also need meaningful action in the EU to end the scourge of plastics. We also need an International Treaty, modelled on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to reduce the use of unnecessary plastics all over the world. This does not happen by giving up our influence in Europe. We cannot influence 27 other countries without a seat at the table, and we will witness the influence we have on the world through the EU dramatically reduced if we leave in October.

The urgency of dealing with our addiction to plastics is more important than ever, after it was revealed just a few weeks ago that plastic waste had been found in the deepest part of our ocean – 7 miles down in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

The time to act is now, and the Conservative Government must stop ignoring the necessary steps the Liberal Democrats have put forward to take us towards a greener and brighter future.”

Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change & the MP for Bath

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Read the most recent article written by Wera Hobhouse MP - Remembering David Amess - the path to a more compassionate politics