Harriet Harman

Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election and I am no longer an MP

Tackling plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is one of today’s great environmental challenges and the urgency and seriousness of the situation has never been clearer.

A recent report has shown that 14 million items of plastic such as bags, bottles, disposable cups and food wrappers are dropped or blown into UK waterways every year. I believe we need to make it more convenient for people to go plastic-free, and where we use plastic, we must ensure it is not just claimed to be recyclable but is actually recycled.

The Government has committed to working towards a target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042 and has consulted on several issues relating to plastics, including a tax on plastic packaging and a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for drinks containers.

The Government has also announced a ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. I am disappointed this announcement falls short of EU proposals to ban the ten single-use plastic products most often found on European beaches.

I am frustrated that we continue in a cycle of consultations on issues that have support right across the country, such as introducing a DRS. We must take a root-and-branch, comprehensive approach to dealing with our waste which reduces the amount created, recycles the maximum amount of waste produced and protects our environment from pollution.

The Government published its draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill in December 2018, which proposes creating a new environmental watchdog – the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

At the 2017 general election, I was elected on a manifesto that proposed establishing an Environmental Tribunal which could hold government fully to account, rather than the proposed OEP which would be accountable to the Government and not to Parliament.

While this is a step in the right direction, I am concerned the Bill’s proposals will require a clear commitment to a level of funding which the Government has previously refused to provide for our public services.

I assure you the broader Environment Bill will be carefully scrutinised when it is introduced to Parliament.

Read my recent Southwark News article demanding government action on climate change: https://www.harrietharman.org/demanding_the_government_declare_a_climate_emergency

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