25-Year Environment Plan: What We Know So Far

Prime Minister Theresa May will give a speech today (11 January) that will pledge to eliminate “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042 as part of the government’s 25-year environment plan.

According to reports, the plan, which was due to be published last Summer but was delayed due to the general election, will see supermarkets urged to create “plastic-free” aisles where shoppers can purchase plastic packaging-free items.

As previously announced in the Autumn budget, it will also look at adding a charge to single-use plastic items, such as coffee cups.

It will also extend the current levy on single-use plastic carrier bags to include small retailers.

“In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly”

The Prime Minister will say in her speech: “In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly…  In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.”

She will also say: “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, untreated, into rivers was ever the right thing to do.”

She is expected to say that the 2042 pledge to eliminate avoidable plastic waste, where it is “technologically, environmentally and economically practical” to do so, will be met through a series of “measures”.

It’s also reported the government will also use UK aid money to help developing nations reduce their own waste and will invest in “plastics innovation”.

WRAP To Collaborate With The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

[UPDATE 10:30 11 January]

According to an update from WRAP, an “ambitious” UK initiative is set to be launched that will involve collaborative action and commitment by businesses, industry, governments, local authorities, NGOs, media and society at large, to re-define what is possible and create a plastic system that works – a circular economy where plastic is valued and never becomes waste.

The “holistic initiative” is currently in development by sustainable production and consumption experts WRAP, and is a joint partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

“Creating a circular economy for plastics amounts to a huge opportunity for the economy as well as providing a longer-term benefit for the environment.”

Revealed today, in The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, it will be the first of a network of national implementation initiatives of the New Plastics Economy in several countries around the world, complementing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global initiative.

The initial focus will be on plastic packaging and will aim to:

  • Eliminate unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging
  • Make sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Significantly increase the collection and recycling of plastic packaging
  • Increase recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material
  • Impassion and enable citizens to play their part in reducing plastic packaging waste and litter

Marcus Gover, CEO at WRAP, said: “Working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we will bring together every ‘body, business and organisation’ involved in the life-cycle of plastics to make the move from a throw away culture to one where resources are used over and over again.”

Dame Ellen MacArthur, said: “Creating a circular economy for plastics amounts to a huge opportunity for the economy as well as providing a longer-term benefit for the environment. Achieving it will require close collaboration and significant commitment from industry, government, and society at large.”

Work is now underway to engage all parties, agree the ambitions and set up the initiative. More details will be shared in the Spring, when WRAP, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, will officially launch the initiative.

A Green Future

[UPDATE 11:15 11 January]

“A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment” sets out how over the next quarter of a century the government will:

  • Crackdown on plastics by eliminating all avoidable plastic waste through extending the 5p plastic bag charge to small retailers, removing consumer single use plastics from the government estate, supporting the water industry to significantly increase water fountains and working with retailers on introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles.
  • Help wildlife thrive by creating 500,000 hectares of new habitat for endangered species, supporting farmers to turn fields into meadows and other habitats, replenishing depleted soils and providing £5.7 million to kick-start a [new Northern Forest] (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-northern-forest-gets-government-backing).
  • Be a world leader in environmental protection by investigating the feasibility of an anti-poaching taskforce to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, committing overseas aid to help developing nations combat plastic waste, and extending the UK’s network of marine protected areas
  • Deliver a Green Brexit by consulting on a new environmental watchdog to hold government to account for environmental standards, and setting out a new approach to agriculture and fisheries management
  • Seek to embed a ‘net environmental gain’ principle so development delivers environmental improvements locally and nationally, enabling housing development without increasing overall burdens on developers
  • Connect people with nature by creating ‘nature friendly schools’ and reviewing National Parks to see how they can improve and whether the network should be extended.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Respecting nature’s intrinsic value and making sure we are wise stewards of our natural world is critical if we are to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.

“Our Environment Plan sets out how over the next 25 years we will radically reduce the waste that is choking oceans and rivers, cleanse our air of toxic pollutants and create new habitats for our most precious wildlife to thrive.

“Through this plan we will build on our reputation as a global leader in environmental protection, creating an environment everyone can enjoy and helping the next generation flourish.”

“Through this plan we will build on our reputation as a global leader in environmental protection, creating an environment everyone can enjoy and helping the next generation flourish.”

In a “world-first”, the 25 Year Environment Plan also aims to set out how we will use a natural capital approach to help us see the additional benefits – whether that is improved health and wellbeing, or national prosperity – in every part our environment, helping improve and direct decision making, and guiding new development.

The Plan sits alongside existing work. A Call for Evidence on reward and return schemes for drinks containers, including plastic bottles, has closed. Its findings are now being assessed by the Working Group, who will make recommendations to ministers this Spring.

As announced in the Budget, the Government will also launch a further Call for Evidence shortly on how changes to the tax system or charges on single-use plastics can play a role in reducing waste.

The plan sits alongside the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, which sets out how the UK is leading the world in cutting carbon emissions to combat climate change and driving economic growth.

Resources & Waste Strategy

[UPDATE 12:00 11 January]

From a waste perspective, the details contained within the Plan include “increasing resource efficiency and reducing pollution and waste”. It sets out measurable goals and targets with a series of measures to help achieve them:

  1. Maximising resource efficiency and minimising environmental impacts at end of life.
  • Achieving zero avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042
  • Reducing food supply chain emissions and waste
  • Reducing litter and littering
  • Improving management of residual waste
  • Cracking down on fly – tippers and waste criminals
  • Reducing the impact of wastewater
  1. Reducing pollution
  • Publishing a Clean Air Strategy
  • Curbing emissions from combustion plants and generators
  • Publishing a Chemicals Strategy

The measures for helping achieve these include:

  • publishing a new Resources and Waste strategy in 2018, aimed at making the UK a world leader in resource efficiency.
  • looking across the whole lifecycle of plastic, launching a call for evidence in 2018 seeking views on how a tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single use plastics waste.
  • introducing new regulations to improve local authorities’ litter and fly-tipping enforcement powers, supported by new guidance on its proportionate use.
  • looking at ways to increase the use of heat produced at waste facilities through better connections to heat networks. The facilities will become more efficient and emit less carbon dioxide.
  • working with industry to explore options to introduce electronic tracking of waste in order to help reduce waste crime.

For the full 25-Year Environment Plan CLICK HERE

CIWM Says: “ambitions must be turned into actions”

[UPDATE 13:15 11 January]

Responding to the publication today of Defra’s 25-year Environment Plan, CIWM has said the momentum that is building behind the Government’s ambitions on waste and resource productivity is encouraging but warns that it will require more than words.

“The 25-year Plan has been a long time in the making and might be somewhat light on detail about delivery, but what we are seeing is a step change in the government’s approach to waste and resource policy,” says CIWM chief executive Dr Colin Church.

“It started with the ambition expressed in the Clean Growth Strategy to achieve zero avoidable waste by 2050, was built upon in the Industrial Strategy White Paper’s aim to double resource productivity by 2050, and has been strengthened by Michael Gove’s recent commitment to setting up an environmental governance body that would hold the government to account for upholding environmental standards in England.

CIWM’s CEO, Dr Colin Church

“What we have today in the 25-year plan, among other initiatives, is an ambition to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042 and an important commitment to explore how the tax system or charges can be used to further reduce the amount of waste created – an indication that the government’s attitude to using fiscal levers and incentives is changing.

“At a more fundamental level, the Prime Minister’s assertion that the state must play a key role in protecting the environment and developing new, green technologies and that “where Government needs to intervene to ensure high standards are met, we will not hesitate to do so”, is very welcome.

“The sector must now engage fully and proactively with the Government to ensure that these ambitions are translated into meaningful actions and policy measures in the Resources and Waste Strategy that is promised towards the end of year.

“This strategy must maintain the momentum by setting out concrete measures and timelines for action on many fronts, from strengthening the markets for secondary raw materials, to reforming our Producer Responsibility systems, to reducing single use plastics. The Plan also acknowledges the important work that remains to be done on food waste, litter and waste crime and we look forward to more detail in these areas too.

“The sector must now engage fully and proactively with the Government to ensure that these ambitions are translated into meaningful actions and policy measures in the Resources and Waste Strategy that is promised towards the end of year.”

“We are also pleased to see the commitment to helping developing nations tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste, including through UK aid. This is an argument that CIWM has been making at the highest levels recently, in partnership with other organisations including Tearfund, the Institute of Development Studies, and WasteAid UK (joint letter).

“Some 3 billion people across the globe do not have access to controlled waste disposal services and facilities, and research suggests that mismanaged municipal solid waste in developing countries is the major source of plastics entering the oceans. This means that there is significant scope for UK international aid to be better targeted at helping to address this crisis.”

CIWM would also like to see these long terms ambitions on environmental protection, sustainable waste management, resource efficiency and productivity enshrined in legislation to ensure that the government can be held to account for their delivery.


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  1. The waste industry is created as a result of statute and governed by regulation. Only a full government executive agency can effectively deliver a fully regulated waste sector. Non departmental public bodies set up for advice and consultation cannot have the full enforcement powers of a government executive nor use central government bodies for enforcement and prosecution e.g. CPS. The waste industry has reached a complexity, importance and level of non-compliance that makes such an arrangement entirely necessary. Aspirations are great but achievement requires the tools.

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