Protection of Rivers | June 2019

I have received numerous emails regarding the reduction of plastic consumption to improve waterways.
Plastic causes extensive environmental damage and endangers plant and animal life as well as natural habitats. I am, therefore, strongly in favour, as is the Government, of reducing the amount of plastic that we consume.
The Government has taken a number of steps to ensure that plastic consumption is reduced both at a national and international level. As you are aware, a lot of our plastic consumption is due to packaging. Consequently, the Government wants to reduce the amount of packaging used in the UK, with significant progress already having been made. In 2018, the UK recycled 64.3% of its packaging waste, which far surpassed the 55% total recycling target set within the European Directive. Equally, the Government is considering, as part of the 25-year Environment Plan, that producers label their packaging with wording to the effect of “Recyclable” or “Not Recyclable”. The Government views reducing the consumption of polluting packaging as a key part of its overall strategy in tackling climate change.
It should also be noted that the Government’s 25-year Environmental Plan includes a commitment to ensure that resources are used more efficiently and kept in use for longer, to minimise waste and reduce environmental impacts by promoting reuse, remanufacturing and recycling. This strategy aims to maximise resource efficiency.
Furthermore, the Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill will give statutory effect to the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and will introduce a set of environmental principles that will be used to guide future Government policy. This will include measures to address environmental priorities such as air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, as well as water resource management. The Government plans to publish more detail on all of these policy areas in due course and I shall be following these developments closely.
The Government has also taken steps to reduce plastic consumption on an international level. In 2018, the 53 nations that make up the Commonwealth established the “Blue Charter”. This highlights the principal environmental challenges facing the ocean as well as marine life and habitats, with a commitment to work together to tackle these challenges. Seven countries have thus far announced their support for this initiative: New Zealand, Australia, Kenya, Ghana, St Lucia, Fiji and Sri Lanka. In addition, in 2018, the Government announced that an extra £61.4 million will be invested to boost global research, and to help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the oceans.
The Government has made clear that it will continue to look at ways to reduce plastic consumption. It will continue to work with other countries, NGOs, industry and experts to devise strategies that reduce our plastic consumption and improve our waterways on a national and international level.

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