Britain to stop exporting its plastic waste to developing countries under new environment legislation

30th January 2020 | Recycling

Britain will stop exporting its plastic waste to developing countries under new environment legislation. The Environment Bill has been reintroduced to Parliament with new power to stop plastic rubbish exports to less developed countries, to prevent waste being shipped out of sight and boost the UK’s domestic recycling system.

The bill was first introduced in October last year, but did not progress as the general election was called shortly afterwards. It now contains the new powers on plastic exports and a two-yearly review of significant developments in international environmental legislation to ensure the UK keeps up with green protections, officials said.

Plastic waste

There will also be a more consistent approach to recycling across England, powers to create a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and a mechanism for introducing a levy on single use plastics, similar to the carrier bag charge, that could be applied to items such as takeaway cutlery. A new watchdog – the Office of Environmental Protection – will scrutinise laws, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities to uphold standards.

The regulator’s powers will cover climate change legislation and hold the Government to account on the legal commitment to cut greenhouse gases to net zero by 2050, working alongside the existing advisory Committee on Climate Change. Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said the bill sets a “gold standard” for improving air quality, protecting nature, increasing recycling and cutting down on plastic waste. She said the moves would drive further action on the environment in a year that will see the UK host major UN climate talks in Glasgow in November.

Ruth Chambers, from the Greener UK coalition of major environmental organisations, said, “The Government has shown increasingly strong ambition in tackling the environmental crisis, and should be supported for proposing legally binding targets for air and water and for its plans to restore nature.” But she added that there are “continuing concerns that ministers will decide the green watchdog’s budget and board, with a weaker legal status for environmental principles.”

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