The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
UK Waste System ‘Overhaul’ Would Make Plastic Polluters Pay
To that end, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is launching four major consultations on proposed changes, including a plan to make packaging producers pay fully for processing their waste and a tax on plastic packaging that is not made from at least 30 percent recycled material.
"We are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste," UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove said in a statement. "That's why we are leading the way to move away from being a 'throw-away' society and drive up domestic recycling."
The announcement laid out four major changes:
Currently, packaging producers in the UK pay about 10 percent of the cost of disposing of their packaging. The government hopes that by asking them to pay the full amount, they will motivate them to create easier-to-recycle materials.
The existing producer responsibility program for packaging has been successful. Since it was instituted in 1997, the percentage of plastic waste recycled in the UK has increased from 25 percent to 64.7 percent in 2016, according to Defra.
The government is also launching a consultation on what it calls a "world leading" tax on the production or import of plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30 percent recycled material. The tax would go into effect April 2022. The idea for the tax came from evidence gathered about single-use plastics last year, which revealed that recycled plastic is more expensive for companies than new plastic. The government is hoping to implement a financial counter-pressure.
"Plastic packaging makes up two-thirds of all the plastic waste that pollutes this country and wreaks havoc on our environment," Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said in a statement. "It's our responsibility to do something about it and that's why we will introduce a new tax on the producers of plastic packaging that don't use enough recycled material."
The government is seeking consultation on a plan to develop a consistent set of recyclable materials across England, no matter where a person lives. The hope is to reduce confusion about what can and cannot be put in the recycling bin during collections. Recycling rates by English households rose from 11 percent in 2001 to 45.2 percent in 2017, but Defra says those rates have stalled and even fallen in some local areas.
'Householders who want to recycle more are increasingly confused about what can be recycled," Defra wrote.
The government has also started a consultation on whether or not to introduce a deposit return scheme for cans and glass and plastic bottles. It hopes this could reduce the estimated three billion plastic bottles that are incinerated, dumped in landfills or littered in the environment where they could make their way to the oceans.
Two models are being considered: an "all-in" model that would allow customers to return bottles used for a variety of common beverages and an "on-the-go" model that would focus on particular container types 750 milliliters (approximately 25.4 fluid ounces) or less in size that are commonly purchased to go.
The consultations will run for 12 weeks and the plans will form part of an environment bill to be introduced by the government in the second session of Parliament.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth welcomed the proposals, but said that more ambitious measures were needed to solve the plastic crisis. In particular, plastic campaigner Julian Kirby applauded the tax and the deposit scheme. However, Kirby recommended the tax be reviewed periodically to increase the minimum amount of recycled material packaging must contain to avoid taxation. Kirby also said the deposit scheme should not be limited to small bottles.
"These proposals are welcome steps forward—but bigger strides are needed if we are truly going to deal with the consequences of our throwaway society," Kirby said in a press release.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.
Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.
Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.
At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.
By Sabrina Kessler
Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.
By Alex Robinson
Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.
The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.
Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.