Protection of Rivers and Environment Bill

Thank you for contacting me about the draft Environment Bill especially in relation to rivers and plastic waste.

Without urgent action to cut demand, it is estimated 34 billion tonnes of plastic will have been manufactured globally by 2050. The new 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment commits the Government to working to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, with action at each stage of the product lifecycle: production, consumption and end of life.

Draft clauses to be included in the Environment Bill on environmental principles and governance have now been published. These draft clauses will be central to the new Environment Bill and will place environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government. I am encouraged that these clauses are only part of a broader Bill, which will include legislative measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age: air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management. More detail on all policy areas will be published in due course.

The draft clauses set out how a new system of green governance will be created, establishing an independent Office for Environmental Protection, to ensure we succeed in leaving the environment in a better condition than we found it. The draft clauses also place our 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing, and introduce a set of environmental principles that will be used to guide future government policy making.

In the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government committed to developing a Nature Recovery Network and, in the long term, to create or restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside the protected site series. I am encouraged that action is being taken to protect wildlife sites and to restore and create wildlife-rich habitats, and that investment is being made to aid species recovery.

 I am pleased that following an open consultation, a ban on the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds will come into force in April 2020. The ban will include exemptions to ensure that those with medical needs or a disability are able to continue to access plastic straws. A further consultation on a plan for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers has also recently closed.

Demand for single-use plastic will be cut and the Government will soon consult on extending the highly successful single use plastic bag charge to small retailers. Businesses will be encouraged to offer new, free refill points for water bottles to be topped up, and work with retailers will explore introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles.

Lastly I am pleased that the UK has also committed a £61.4 million package of funding to boost global research and help countries across the Commonwealth stop plastic waste from entering the oceans.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

June 2019