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Phase-out single-use plastics by 2025 not 2042

19 organisations are calling on Government to phase-out single-use plastics by 2025 not 2042 to stop 4,000 billion more single-use plastic items being thrown away.

22 March 2019

The Government must phase-out all non-essential single-use plastics by 2025 to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution, say 19 leading environment charities [1], coordinated by Wildlife and Countryside Link. This could save more than 4,000 billion pieces of unnecessary single-use plastic waste being consumed in the UK between 2026 - 2042 [2], helping to slash the ‘toxic plastic soup’ ending up in our oceans, rivers and countryside.

In a joint report published today, 19 organisations concerned with the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and wildlife, are calling for a wholesale transition away from single-use plastic. This, they say, must be an urgent priority if the government truly wants to fulfil its pledge to be a global leader in tackling plastic pollution.

Dr Sue Kinsey of Marine Conservation Society said: ‘Plastic pollution is an environmental emergency and Government needs to treat it as such. The damage our ‘throwaway’ culture has done to our seas is clear. We urgently need to reduce the amount of plastic we produce and use if we’re to lead the way in turning the plastic tide. This is essential to create a genuine circular economy system in the UK where ‘waste’ is valued as a resource and used time and time again rather than polluting our countryside, coasts and seas.

Juliet Phillips of Environmental Investigation Agency said: ‘Plastic pollutes at each stage of its life cycle, from extraction to disposal. It’s increasingly clear that we cannot recycle our way out of this crisis: the focus must instead emphasise reduction. To date, measures proposed by the UK Government fall short of incentivising the wholescale transition so urgently needed away from a single use society. We call for the adoption of measures that reduce dependency on all non-essential plastic items and packaging, supporting companies to rethink their supply chains and delivery models’

Julian Kirby of Friends of the Earth said: ‘Single-use plastic is having a devastating effect on our planet and wildlife - we simply cannot go on throwing away our planet’s future on a daily basis like this. The government must move urgently to end the plastic pollution plague that’s swamping our precious blue planet.’

In the joint report published today, the groups say the number-one priority for the Government must be a reduction in the production and consumption of plastic items, followed by an increase in reuse and, finally, simple and cost-effective recycling, preferably within the UK.

The organisations are also calling for:

  • Immediate bans on ‘pointless’ and ‘problem’ plastics;
  • Take steps to prevent a one-for-one substitution of single-use plastic products made from other materials because ‘pointless’ items do not need replacing.
  • Reduction targets for producers of single-use plastics, and taxes to reinforce these;
  • Economic incentives to drive consumer behaviour change and reduce usage;
  • A comprehensive strategy and regulatory measures to tackle sources of microplastic pollution.

The United Nations Environment Assembly announced last week that it will ‘significantly reduce single-use plastics by 2030’. This is notably much more ambitious than the Government’s current commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042, as outlined in the 25 Year Environment Plan. The EU has also promised to eliminate many single-use plastics by 2025 - much sooner than the UK. The groups are therefore calling on Government to build on the useful framework in the Resources and Waste Strategy published last December and increase its ambition by eliminating all non-essential single-use plastics by 2025. This will show real global leadership in helping to turn off the plastic tap.

WWF and Eunomia research estimates a 20 per cent increase in plastic consumption by 2030. Therefore, though the current consultations and strategies are welcome interventions for harder to replace plastics, the UN’s recent commitment shows more urgent action needs to be taken to phase out pointless plastics. A YouGov survey published last month revealed that 88 per cent of participants support a phase-out of all non-essential single-use plastic by 2025. [3]

The groups, who are all members of Wildlife and Countryside Link, are also backing draft legislation [4], currently before Parliament, which would require an end to all non-essential single-use plastics by 2025 as part of a long-term target to significantly cut plastic waste and pollution by 2042.

A full copy of the embargoed report is available here.

Media Contact:
Cecily Spelling, Marine Policy & Campaigns Manager at Wildlife and Countryside Link, 020 7820 8600

Notes to editors:

1. Wildlife and Countryside Link is the biggest coalition of wildlife and environment charities in England The charities supporting these calls are: A Rocha UK, British Canoeing, Buglife, Campaign to Protect Rural England, ClientEarth, Environmental investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth, Institute of Fisheries Management, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Marine Conservation Society, MARINElife, ORCA, RSPCA, Salmon and Trout Conservation, The British Mountaineering Council, The Wildlife Trusts, WWF, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, ZSL (Zoological Society of London).

2. WWF and Eunomia research in 2018 estimates that 210.2 billion single-use plastic items are consumed in the UK annually and this will increase by around 20% to over 250 billion items per year by 2030. Assuming this figure as a constant for the years 2026-2042 the total number of items consumed over the period would be 4,250 million. This is in fact likely to be an underestimate as plastic production and consumption has been projected to rise steadily and steeply to 2050 and beyond. An Ellen MacArthur Foundation Report in 2016 estimated that plastics production will have quadrupled by 2050.

3. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,913 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 19th February 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

4. The Phase-out of Plastic Pollution Bill, has been drawn up by Friends of the Earth and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI):

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