Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed that policies to tackle plastic waste, improve recycling and deliver more sustainable water supplies will be included in the government’s long-awaited Environment Bill, following six public consultations.
The measures were announced today by Mr Gove in a summer policy statement, ahead of an expected Cabinet reshuffle later this week.
Gove confirmed the inclusion of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to make producers pay for the waste they produce and a direction that water companies must work together to meet water demands.
Mr Gove said: ‘The measures in our Environment Bill will position the UK as a world leader, ensuring that after EU Exit environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government.
‘As we have set out today, our plans will improve air quality so that our children live longer, restore habitats and increase biodiversity, strive towards a more circular economy and ensure we can manage our precious water resources in a changing climate.’
One of the measures included in today’s policy statement is a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in England and Wales, a policy which received widespread support and which Defra says it now intends to start no later than 2023.
In a speech last week Gove outlined his personal support for an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme which would cover drinks containers of all sizes and materials.
Waste was another theme of today’s announcement, including the introduction of consistent recyclable materials to be collected from homes and businesses, and new powers to enact EPR schemes.
Regarding biodiversity, the government confirmed that the new Environment Bill will look to legally require developers to deliver net biodiversity gain by insisting that any new developments increase habitats for wildlife by 10%.
The Environment Bill will also strengthen the powers of the water regulator Ofwat and force water companies to plan more robustly, after a new report described water companies’ efforts to protect the environment as ‘simply unacceptable’.
Meanwhile, the planned new environmental watchdog the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will have the power to undertake its own investigations and take government and public bodies to court if they fail to abide by environmental law, Defra confirmed.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said there was ‘much to get excited about’ in the government’s update, though it still lacked the detail needed to truly help protect the environment.
Urging the government to follow Gove’s ambition for an ‘all-in’ deposit scheme, the CPRE added that more detail is needed on how biodiversity net gain will be achieved in practice to ensure that it doesn’t become a ‘tokenistic box-ticking exercise’ for developers.