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Missed opportunity as Chancellor stalls on tackling plastics in Budget

Missed opportunity as Chancellor stalls on tackling plastics in Budget
2 min read

Shadow Defra spokesperson Holly Lynch MP says action on single-use plastics announced in the Budget falls short of the government's own ambition and calls for urgent action to protect wildlife and the environment from lasting damage.

The Government, in its Budget yesterday, was widely expected to announce measures to tackle single-use plastics which are having such a detrimental impact on our coasts, rivers, seas and oceans.

As Blue Planet II has catapulted the wellbeing of our oceans into the public consciousness, it had been widely reported that specific measures outlining taxes on plastic consumables including bottles, takeaway boxes and drinking straws, would be a feature of the budget.

While there is always a process of briefing, counter-briefing, leaks and speculation going into any budget, even when you strip all of that back, the Chancellor’s announcement on plastics fell a long way short of expectations. 

The Government announced that next year it will launch a call for evidence seeking views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single-use plastics waste. Whilst this is welcome, I’m afraid it falls short of the ambition of even the Government’s own rhetoric.

The Secretary of State has already voiced his support for a plastic bottle return scheme and could have announced some serious policy in this area. Instead the budget outlined that, frustratingly, we are still looking at months of consultation, before we see any action.

Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, and it’s been discovered in creatures living seven miles beneath the sea.

Globally, 500 million drinking straws are used and wasted every single day, with massive quantities ending up in our seas and oceans. With this in mind, I appealed directly to bars and restaurants earlier this year, writing to the top 20 chains asking them to adopt a straws on request only policy, whilst simultaneously launching a campaign to ask consumers to #GoStrawFree.

I was pleased to hear back from a selection of companies, including a number of the nation’s biggest, that they are taking this issue seriously, with some promising welcome announcements in the coming weeks.

We now know from the Budget that change will not happen quickly. Businesses and consumers joining together to take some urgent and direct action will be more important than ever if we are to protect our wildlife and environment from lasting damage.

Holly Lynch is the Labour Member of Parliament for Halifax, and is the Shadow Minister for Environment

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