A petition signed by over 300,000 people which demands tougher government action on plastic pollution will be handed into 10 Downing Street today (February 26), by Friends of the Earth and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI).
The petition, which calls on ministers to introduce a plan to phase out non-essential single-use plastic, coincides with the second reading of the government’s flagship Environment Bill, when MPs will debate its contents for the first time.
According to the government, the Bill will create legally-binding environmental improvement targets with a focus on the four priority areas of air quality; waste and resource efficiency; water and nature. It was initially brought before the House of Commons in October but was delayed due to the General Election.
Friends of the Earth and the NFWI are urging the government to strengthen the Bill by setting binding and timetabled targets to stem the flow of plastic pollution, ensuring that existing environmental laws can’t be weakened in the future and strengthening the planned environment watchdog by ensuring it is ‘independent, properly funded, and able to issue legally robust sanctions.’
Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have also raised concerned about environmental protections following the UK’s departure from the EU.
Whilst the UK automatically retains EU environmental laws after leaving the European Union, a clause was added to section 26 of the Withdrawal Bill that means any UK court or tribunal will be able to overrule case law from the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).
Friends of the Earth’s acting chief executive Miriam Turner, who will be handing in the petition, said: ‘The government’s flagship environment bill must be strengthened to confront the plastic pollution crisis.
‘Bans on plastic straws and stirrers are certainly welcome – but these items are dwarfed by the waves of plastic pollution pouring into our environment.
‘Ministers must commit to ending plastic pollution and a phase-out of all unnecessary single-use plastic – with legally-enforceable targets and timetables for achieving these.’