Revised Environment Bill targets plastic exports

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
New powers restricting plastic exports are intended to boost the UK's domestic recycling system

The Environment Bill returns to parliament today, equipped with new powers to stop plastic waste exports to developing countries.

The new powers are intended to prevent polluting waste being shipped out of sight and to boost the UK’s domestic recycling system.

The revised bill also includes a new commitment to review international environmental legislation every second year to inform the UK’s own environmental plans.

It also upholds measures proposed last year, laying out legally-binding environmental improvement targets, including measures to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, and restore natural habitats.

The bill grants powers to instate an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme, introduce a bottle deposit return scheme (DRS), more effectively tackle waste crime, and bring in new charges on single-use plastic items to reduce their use.

It also establishes an independent Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), which will scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints, and hold public authorities to strict environmental standards.

The OEP will hold the government to account on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: “We welcome the early reintroduction of the Environment Bill to the government’s legislative agenda.

“We view this as cementing the radical changes promised by the resources and waste strategy, particularly in regard to bolstering the ‘polluter-pays’ principle.

“The ESA also welcomes the introduction of rules concerning the export of mixed plastics to non-OECD countries.

“This must be accompanied by measures that will unlock investment in domestic markets and demand for recycled product."

The Environment Bill was first introduced to parliament in October 2019, but its progress was impeded by the general election called in December.

Pat Jennings, head of policy, knowledge, and external affairs at CIWM, said: "The bill is an important milestone.

"However, there are areas where the bill could and should be strengthened and improved to ensure that we have a robust, inclusive, and genuinely transformative framework for environmental protection.

"The ban on plastic waste being sent to developing countries is part of a much bigger push at a European level and through the Basel Convention, to which the UK is and will remain a party.

"As well as discharging our international obligations, the UK government and the devolved governments have more work to do to support the development of domestic infrastructure to ensure that the UK can deal with, and derive value from, more of its plastic waste in the future."

John Scanlon, chief executive at Suez Recycling & Recovery UK, added: "Bringing the Environment Bill back to parliament on the eve of Brexit day sends a clear and welcome message that the UK is serious about preserving and enhancing our natural capital and creating a policy roadmap towards a more circular economy.

"We look to the final form of the bill to create investable conditions, where businesses can put environmental considerations at the forefront of their activities, guided by a clear, commonly understood direction of travel supported by transparent targets and simple delivery mechanisms.

"With a clear framework in place, all elements of the value chain will be able to work towards a joined-up approach where the environment is a core consideration in the way we design, produce, sell, and consume goods, and then discard, reuse, recycle, and reprocess materials."

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