River Mersey: Plastics

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps the Environment Agency are taking to prevent plastic factory waste from polluting the River Mersey.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Environment Agency (EA) regulates a number of activities locally which have the potential to cause plastic waste pollution in the River Mersey. In Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire it is responsible for the regulation of permitted and exempt plastics recycling plants, which includes reviewing inspection and compliance checks to ensure plastics recyclers are complying with their environmental permits. It is also a key partner in driving Greater Manchester’s ambition to be single use plastic free by 2020.

Across England, the EA investigates any reported incidents of plastic pollution to a watercourse should it pose a significant or major risk to people, property and the natural environment.

The EA does not monitor levels of plastic in watercourses as part of its monitoring regime as there are no current legislative requirements. However, the EA is working with Defra and academics to understand the different sources, pathways and impacts to develop consistent sampling and assessment monitoring methodologies for plastics. In 2018 the EA visited all facilities which treated or reprocessed plastic waste and checked they were not losing plastic fragments into surface water. The EA also encourages businesses to sign up to Operation Clean Sweep, a voluntary business initiative to take measures to reduce plastic pellet loss.

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