Theresa May has defended her 25-year plan to protect the environment as campaigners called for “emergency” action now.
The prime minister said her long-term strategy, including eradicating all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042, would allow future generations to “enjoy a beautiful environment”.
Green groups said the proposals should have legal force.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn said 25 years was “far too long” to take action.
Unveiling the proposals at London Wetlands Centre, Mrs May vowed that Brexit would not lead to environmental standards being lowered, and promised her government would “leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it”.
Key to this is a crackdown on throwaway plastics. Under the government’s plan, supermarkets will be urged to introduce “plastic-free” aisles while taxes and charges on single-use items such as takeaway containers will be considered.
Mrs May’s announcements also include:
- Confirmation of the extension of the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags to all retailers in England
- Government funding for plastics innovation
- A commitment to help developing nations tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste, including through UK aid
She said: “We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals into rivers was ever the right thing to do.”
She called plastic waste “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”, adding: “In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.”
Asked after her speech about calls for more urgent action, the PM said the government had already reduced plastic bag usage by nine billion and legislated to ban plastic microbeads used in cosmetics and cleaning products.
And asked about her own environmental credentials, she revealed she had put owl and bat boxes in her garden.
Some campaigners have warned about the loss of European environmental standards once the UK leaves the EU, but Mrs May promised a new “world leading” body to hold the government to account on environmental issues.
However the chairwoman of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, Labour’s Mary Creagh, said a new Act of Parliament was needed after Brexit.
“We don’t want to go back to being the ‘dirty man of Europe’,” she added.
Source: BBC News