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  • A pedestrian carries a British union flag design plastic bag in Leicester Square in London, Britain, March 29, 2018.

    A pedestrian carries a British union flag design plastic bag in Leicester Square in London, Britain, March 29, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 May 2018
Opinion

Two-thirds of all plastic packaging in Britain ends up being landfilled or burned, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 

British lawmakers plan to ban the sale of plastic straws, cotton buds, wet wipes, drink stirrers and other single-use products and is pressing Commonwealth allies to also take action to tackle marine waste.

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"As part of our 25-year environment plan we have pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, and that includes single-use products that include plastic such as wet wipes," the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told MailOnline in a statement.

Last month, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to eradicate avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as part of a “national plan of action”.

“Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,” May said in a statement ahead of a Commonwealth summit last month.

Britain committed US$87.21 million at the summit to develop new ways of tackling plastic waste and help Commonwealth countries limit how much plastic ends up in the ocean.

“We are rallying Commonwealth countries to join us in the fight against marine plastic,” May said. “Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.”

The statement said environment minister Michael Gove would launch a consultation later this year into the plan to ban the plastic items. It gave no details who the consultation would be with.

Earlier in January, environmentalists said the new measures do not go far enough, arguing that the most glaring omission in May’s scheme was the lack of support for deposit return schemes that pay consumers to return plastic bottles after use and are common in many parts of the world including Denmark, Germany and Australia.

Eight million tonnes of plastic - bottles, packaging and other waste - are dumped into the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). If current pollution rates continue, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.

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