UK pledges GBP 61.4m to fight marine litter / Bans on some single-trip plastics
For years a topic discussed mainly in industry circles and occasionally in municipalities, counties or districts trying to deal with mountains of plastic waste from fast-food restaurants and grocery stores, the question of what to do with all of it is finally going mainstream in the UK. Even the proverbial man or woman on the street can no longer avoid hearing about marine litter in particular when photos of dead dolphins lurk from newspapers and magazines on every street-side kiosk. The “Blue Planet” TV series narrated by David Attenborough is given much of the credit for raising the public’s awareness of the problem.

Now that the concerns have trickled down to the country’s leadership, the government of UK prime minister Theresa May is racing to catch up. At the beginning of 2018, it pledged to eliminate avoidable plastic waste within 25 years and later warning that plastic pollution of the oceans would increase threefold in seven years unless action was taken. Just ahead of a recent meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in London this month, May announced plans for a GBP 61.4m (EUR 70.2m) fund to fight plastics pollutions at sea. She urged the assembled leaders to sign on for the newly created Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance. Four countries are already on board, namely New Zealand, Vanuatu, Sri Lanka and Ghana.

At the conference, May underscored also that the UK would take steps towards curbing single-trip plastics, starting with a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed common ear swabs – see of 20.03.2018. Separately, environment minister Michael Gove last year called for a 22-pence deposit on plastic bottles, coupled with a return scheme – see of 23.10.2017 – and the government earlier this year banned microbeads used in cosmetics – see of 15.01.2018. “Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world,” May said, pointing to her government as “a world leader on this issue.”

May’s statement led some observers to note that many other countries were already steps ahead. The UK was one of the last in Europe to charge for disposable plastic bags. Laws in Commonwealth member Kenya already threaten up to four years in jail for manufacturing or importing plastic bags. Within the UK, Scotland has already proposed bans on straws and ear swabs. The Welsh government, which may have some catching-up to do, welcomed the prime minister’s planned moves, promising to look at “how this can effectively be done in Wales.” International statistics see bottle deposits in force in 38 countries, and bottle collection schemes have been in practice in Germany, Sweden and Denmark for several years.

The UK’s six-figure marine litter remediation budget will include GBP 25m to help researchers investigate the problem from a scientific, economic and social perspective, May said. An additional GBP 20m is earmarked for curbing plastic and other environmental pollution generated by manufacturing. The remaining GBP 16.4m is to be devoted to improving waste management at a national and municipal level. The prime minister said the government would also match public donations up to a total of GBP 5m.
25.04.2018 [239581-0]
Published on 25.04.2018

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