The Environment Bill is the new law that will set the groundwork for future environmental protection and natural restoration in England for decades to come.
The Bill was introduced way back at the start of 2020 and had been planned to be passed and ready to go when the UK completely leaves the EU on the 31st December. But the global pandemic has seen this vital piece of legislation shelved by the government.
This week the Bill makes its long-awaited return to the House of Commons and whilst most of the Bill is good, without improvement the Bill falls far short of the world leading legislation that government have promised us. It is, therefore, crucial that in the coming weeks, when MPs have the opportunity to debate and amend the bill, that they push for changes.
The Bill includes welcome measures to help stop plastics ending up in the ocean and on our beaches including an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme, single use plastic charges and an ‘all in’ Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). To accompany these measures, and ensure a big picture approach is adopted to achieve an end to plastic pollution, we need to see plastic reduction targets set by government to tackle the overproduction of plastics which is the root cause of the pollution crisis.
Write to your MP – template letter – find your MP’s contact details
Dear (MPs name)
A vital amendment to the Environment Bill and a new Plastic Pollution Bill will be tabled in the House of Commons imminently. As your constituent, I would like to ask you to support both of these.
I care about the issue of plastic pollution because … (list your reasons).
The scale of our plastic use contributes to two major environmental problems: climate change and the pollution of the natural environment.
As shown in the TV programme Blue Planet 2, plastic pollution in the marine environment is all-pervasive. Every year, an estimated 12 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the ocean, posing a serious threat to marine birds and animals.
Plastic also contributes significantly to climate change. Producing one tonne of plastic generates up to 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and a further 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide which can be emitted at the end of this plastic’s life cycle.
Plastic pollution is also affecting human health. Microplastics ingested by people through air, food and water may be having harmful effects including exacerbating respiratory problems.
Globally, research by Tearfund shows that between 400,000 and 1 million people die each year in low- and middle-income countries because of diseases related to plastic and other mismanaged waste. At the upper end, that is one person every 30 seconds. Although the Environment Bill has a domestic focus, by taking a lead on this issue the UK government would be able to advocate for greater international action with confidence and authority.
The root cause of the plastic pollution crisis is the systemic overproduction and consumption of polluting plastics including non-essential single-use items. This is exacerbated by the failure of our current systems to deal with the masses of plastic waste we are producing.
To end plastic pollution, we need to reduce the consumption and production of plastic products. Simply recycling is not enough. The public appetite and technology necessary for a wholesale shift away from throw-away and single-use to reusable alternatives already exist– all that’s needed is political leadership.
I would like to see the government legislate for targets to reduce plastic pollution and waste, with a particular focus on reducing the production and consumption of non-essential single- use and polluting plastic, and embracing ‘reduce and reuse’ business models.
The Environment Bill does not currently mandate the government to take effective action on plastic pollution. The Bill should therefore be amended to include a duty for the Secretary of State to set ambitious, legally binding targets for the elimination of plastic pollution and to bring about an end to the sale, use and production of non-essential single-use plastic products. An amendment to this effect is going to be tabled when the Environment Bill returns to the House, and as your constituent, I would appreciate it if you would support this.
The new Plastic Pollution Bill (PPB) will then set out the targets which I believe the government should adopt to fulfil this mandate. The PPB provides the gold standard in setting ambitious targets for the elimination of non-essential items by 2025, and ending plastic pollution altogether by 2042. As part of this, all single-use plastic packaging should be reduced by 50 per cent by 2025, with 25 per cent of this shift coming from systems of reusable packaging. I would also appreciate your support for this bill.
I look forward to hearing what you as my MP think about this situation, and welcome your support.