Labour MEPs: UK must match new EU proposals to tackle plastic waste

As the European Parliament today backed a report proposing strong action to reduce plastic waste, Labour MEPs urged the UK government to match any new EU measures that come into force and keep them after Brexit.

The report calls for all plastic packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2030, and a complete ban on microplastics added to products such as cosmetics, detergents and personal hygiene by 2020. It is estimated more than 700,000 plastic bottles are littered in the UK every day, many of which end up in our oceans, and new sources of plastic leakage, such as single-use plastic products and microplastics, are on the rise, posing new potential threats to animal and human health.

Currently, landfilling and incineration rates of plastic waste are quite high – 31% and 39%, respectively – and although landfill has decreased over the past decade, incineration has grown. According to estimates, 95 per cent of the value of plastic packaging material, €70-105 billion (£62-93bn), is lost to the economy after a very short first-use cycle.

Seb Dance MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on environment, said:

“For all Michael Gove’s talk of a ‘green Brexit’, the Tory government’s record on plastics, like on so much else, shows they simply cannot be trusted to protect our natural environment.

“While the UK government has a vague and entirely non-binding goal of achieving zero avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, the EU has set a target of all plastic packaging placed on the single market being recyclable or reusable by 2030. Similarly, while the Tories have only promised to consult on a ban on plastic straws and drink stirrers, the EU is working to prohibit the sale of a whole range of single-use plastic products that end up on our beaches including cutlery, straws, plates and cotton buds.

“When it comes to enforcement, the EU has proposed proper systems for NGOs and individuals to be able to take governments to court for failure to implement legislation, but our government has not proposed any mechanism for legal redress where government and manufacturers fail to take action.

“We must be much bolder in our commitment to tackle this, and match all current, and any new, EU environment legislation – we cannot let the Tories turn the UK into a post-Brexit dumping ground for cheap, non-recyclable plastics.”