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Environment Bill is a wasted opportunity if we don’t set targets to outlaw single-use plastics

3 min read

We need to have a clear way of tracing waste to make sure that rubbish does not end up in our ocean. My amendment to the Environment Bill will do just that, writes Wera Hobhouse MP. 

The UK produces 2.26 million tonnes of plastic packaging every year – in 2017 just 46% of plastic packaging was recycled. Over 90% of the plastics ever produced in the world have never been recycled. These are simply shocking statistics.

The Conservatives’ Environment Bill is a huge opportunity to change the way the UK deals with its waste – it could set targets to outlaw single-use plastics within three years – like the Liberal Democrats want to do. It could introduce a “right to repair” to stop our throwaway culture with electronics. It could set targets for reducing the amount of waste that ends up in the ocean. It does none of these things. Without these the Environment Bill is a missed opportunity.

The Tories have grabbed headlines by banning the sale of plastic coffee stirrers, straws and cotton buds – but this simply doesn’t tackle the problem.

When you put an empty plastic bottle in a recycling bin, understandably you would assume it gets recycled. But, as has been seen in recent years, far too often the waste is sold on or exported and end up in landfill or even ending in the oceans.

We all saw the devastating images of plastic pollution in our oceans on Blue Planet 2, and this led many people to think “What’s the point of recycling when I don’t know where it ends up.” That’s what I want to change.

When I was a councillor, we knew where our waste ended up. I am calling for all councils to have this knowledge and for it to be publicly available. People should know that their cardboard becomes kitchen roll inserts or that their plastic becomes infill for roads.

Across the country people are making a real effort to reduce their waste – they want to recycle properly and stop polluting our environment. We need to have a clear way of tracing waste to make sure that rubbish does not end up in our ocean. My amendment to the Environment Bill will do just that.

It will ensure that all local authorities, as well as any private businesses contracted by councils, know the final destination of their waste – this means you and I will know exactly what happens to the plastic bottle we put in the recycling bin.

It will also reveal exactly how much of the UK’s waste is exported abroad - allowing us to invest properly in recycling infrastructure in this country. Recycling is more than just cutting out waste to landfill; achieving a zero-waste economy is crucial if we are to tackle the climate emergency by reaching net-zero.

I am glad to have received support from MPs from across the political spectrum on this issue, and I hope that the government will join them in supporting this Liberal Democrat amendment.


Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democract Member of Parliament for Bath and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Environment and Climate Change.

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Read the most recent article written by Wera Hobhouse MP - The UK needs to get serious about adapting to climate change