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Plastics: Waste

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 48336, tabled on 13 September 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ban the (a) export of plastic waste and (b) most polluting single use plastics as part of its plans to tackle the causes of plastic pollution.

Answered on

21 September 2021

(a) The Government has committed to banning the export of plastic waste to countries that are not members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). We will consult before the end of 2022 on options to deliver the ban.

(b) The Resources and Waste Strategy for England sets out the Government's plans to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste throughout the life of the 25 Year Environment Plan. For the most problematic plastics we are going faster - which is why we have committed to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025. We have made significant progress, introducing one of the world's toughest bans on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and significantly reducing the use of single-use carrier bags use with our 5p charge. In May we increased the charge to 10p and extended it to all retailers.

In general, we prefer to help people and companies make the right choice, rather than banning items outright. It is ultimately for businesses to decide what materials they use to supply products to customers. There may, however, be times when a ban is appropriate as part of a wider strategic approach. In October 2020, we introduced a restriction on the supply of plastic drinking straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers, and we are currently in the process of preparing a public consultation on banning the supply of single-use plastic plates, cutlery and expanded polystyrene drinks containers. We will continue to review the latest evidence on problematic products and/ or materials to take a systematic approach to reducing the use of unnecessary single-use plastic products.

We have included a number of measures in the Environment Bill to enable us to tackle plastics and plastic waste. These include measures to impose charges on single-use plastic items; introduce a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers; and make producers cover the costs of collecting and managing plastic packaging waste. As well as this, the Bill gives us powers to provide consistent recycling services for household and businesses; ensure all packaging is labelled either 'recyclable' or 'not recyclable'; set requirements regarding design and material usage for products; and will allow us to better control the export of plastic waste.