MPs urge government to tackle plastic pollution at source
The UK government has failed to tackle the root causes of plastic pollution by paying insufficient attention to the reduction of single-use packaging in the first place.
That is according to a report released today by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which warns that the UK cannot recycle its way out of the pollution crisis.
The cross-party group of MPs called for a plastic packaging tax, with lower fees applied to higher levels of recycled content, and argued that this should apply to imports too.
The committee also warned that bio-plastics are a “false solution”, highlighting how biodegradable cups pose just as much of a problem to marine life as conventional plastic once in the sea.
“My committee is also concerned that compostable plastics have been introduced without the right infrastructure or consumer understanding about how to dispose of them,” committee chair, Neil Parish, said.
“Fundamentally, substitution is not the answer, and we need to look at ways to cut down on single-use packaging.”
Ultimately, the gulf between consumption of plastic and recycling capacity in the UK means much more focus is needed on reduction and reuse, according to the report.
The committee urged ministers to conduct a review of reusable and refillable packaging systems to determine what works and where government intervention is needed.
In addition, parliament should lead by example and attempt to remove single-use packaging from all its catering facilities.
Despite calling for more focus on packaging reduction, the MPs said they support government proposals to improve the recycling rate with extended producer responsibility, a deposit return scheme and consistency in recycling collections.
“This report provides a much-needed legislative health check," said Juliet Phillips, oceans campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which is quoted throughout the report.
"EIA urges the government to take note of its findings, introducing a long-term strategy to catalyse a wholesale transition away from wasteful, unnecessary single-use packaging and towards reusable and refillable solutions.”
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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM