Plastics: Seas and Oceans

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Jo Platt Jo Platt Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps her Department is taking to reduce plastic waste in oceans.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The UK is committed to tackling the scourge of marine litter and we are making significant progress towards addressing this issue. Our approach so far has been to reduce needless plastic waste entering the marine environment in the first instance.

Our ban on microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products, one of the strongest in the world, came into force in June 2018. Our plastic bag charge has led to a 90% reduction in the use of plastic carrier bags in the main retailers and last year alone raised over £51 million for environmental causes. We have consulted on plans to extend the charge to all retailers and on increasing the minimum 5p charge to at least 10p. In May 2019, we announced that a ban on the supply of plastic straws, stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds to the end user will come into force from April 2020. These policies are helping to deliver our Resources and Waste Strategy for England, our framework for eliminating all avoidable plastic waste. It builds on commitments in our 25 Year Environment Plan and sets out plans to maximise the value we get from resources, minimise waste, promote a circular economy, and better protect the environment.

Marine litter is a transboundary problem which requires international cooperation; that is why we are leading action on the global threat of marine litter. We continue to actively engage internationally through OSPAR, the G7 and the G20, and the UN. In April 2018, the Prime Minister announced the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, a ground-breaking initiative working with our Commonwealth partners to reduce marine plastic pollution. To help deliver this, we committed an ambitious package of up to £70 million of funding to drive research and innovation.

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