British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans for making the UK free of plastic waste in an effort to reduce plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
May is targeting all avoidable plastic waste such as straws, disposable coffee cups, grocery packaging, and to-go boxes, and hopes to eliminate plastic waste completely within 25 years.
In a speech made on Thursday, the British Prime Minister outlined plans to extend a tax on plastic bags, look into charging for plastic containers, and implement more bulk food aisles in grocery stores where the food is sold without packaging.
“Today I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership. We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates,” May said in her speech.
Going plastic free is a noble endeavor and if successful, it would be a monumental achievement for both May and the United Kingdom.
However, the speech has gotten mixed reviews with top environmental advocates skeptical that the plan will be followed through.
Greenpeace was among several groups who called the plan too vague and said that more needed to be done sooner with the pressing issues of plastic waste.
“Britain’s natural environment needs a 25-month emergency plan more than it needs a 25-year vision,” said Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven told The Guardian.
Greenpeace also questioned why there was no mention of a deposit-return scheme in the speech, which the government has expressed interest in.
Bottle return deposits have been shown to be successful in the countries that adopted them and require purchasers to put down a surcharge on bottles which is refunded when the containers are returned.
Critics of the plan also say that having a time frame that long into the future does nothing to ensure the safety of the plan once May is out of office.
If successful, the United Kingdom would be at the forefront of plastic removal and environmental issues worldwide. But based on the lukewarm reaction of environmental agencies, it would appear the speech may be more of a political tactic more than a firm solution to the world’s plastics problem.
By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer