PM urged to set legally binding targets to cut plastic pollution 

Businesses, MPs, faith leaders, academics and campaigners write to Boris Johnson
  Published:  26 Jan 2021    |      4 minute read

Businesses, MPs, faith leaders, academics and campaigning organisations are calling on the Prime Minister to introduce legally binding targets to stem the growing tide of plastic pollution.

The call comes as MPs are set to debate amendments to the Environment Bill in Parliament (during its report stage) later today. An amendment calling for legally binding plastics reduction targets to be included in the bill has been tabled by Conservative MP Chris Loder (West Dorset).

In their letter to Boris Johnson the group says that while government initiatives - such as the ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds – have had positive impacts, a more over-arching approach is needed to deal with the problem.

In particular, the Prime Minister is being urged to ensure that long-term and interim targets for cutting plastic pollution are included in the government’s flagship Environment Bill, which is currently passing through Parliament.

The signatories to the letter include businesses such as Iceland and Neal’s Yard, MPs, faith leaders, academics and organisations such as Friends of the Earth, the WI, Surfers against Sewage, Keep Britain Tidy, City to Sea and Tearfund (see letter for a full list).

Although the government’s focus has rightly been on the coronavirus crisis over the past year, the plastic pollution problem has not gone away – and appears to have been exacerbated by the pandemic, with disposable face masks found on more than two thirds of recent Marine Conservation Society beach clean ups.

Chris Loder MP, who has tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill requiring legally binding plastic pollution reduction targets to be set , said:

“The Government has made great strides towards tackling the scourge of plastic pollution. My amendment takes this further. We generate so much plastic waste here in the UK that it needs to be shipped abroad, whilst supermarkets and large retailers have no requirement to reduce their excessive plastic usage. Now is the time to get a grip of plastic pollution, once and for all.”

Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Camilla Zerr said:

“Despite the introduction of a few welcome measures, the government must go much further to stem the rising tide of plastic pollution pouring into our environment.

“Boris Johnson has a golden opportunity to get to grips with the crisis by ensuring that the Environment Bill contains legally binding targets for reducing the amount of plastic waste polluting our planet every year

“The government has promised to be a world leader on the environment and set a gold standard for cutting down on plastic waste. Now it’s time to deliver.”

Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland said

“In order to tackle the sheer scale of plastic making its way into the environment we need to see businesses and policy makers working together. That’s why we are calling on the government to set ambitious and overarching legally binding plastic pollution reduction targets to drive forward ambition and create a level playing field for all businesses.”

Amy Slack, Head of Campaigns and Policy at Surfers Against Sewage said:

“During the COVID pandemic we have seen just how important our green and blue spaces are for people’s mental health and wellbeing. However, the pandemic has also highlighted once again the sheer amount of plastic pollution that enters into the environment choking these treasured natural places.

“With the Environment Bill the government has a once in a generation opportunity to tackle this pollution at source by setting ambitious plastic pollution reduction targets. On behalf of ocean lovers all over the UK we are calling on the Prime Minister to take bold action on plastic for the benefit of people and the planet.”

The Rt Revd Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington and Tearfund Ambassador said:

“By introducing a law to cut plastic pollution the UK Government would have serious credibility in leading the charge against global plastic pollution which blights the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people every year. This legislation would also send a strong and clear signal to large companies that the days of business models based on selling single use plastic packaging are numbered.”



1. The letter to Boris Johnson, including a full list of signatories is here

2. The Environment Bill is due to reach its report stage later today (Tuesday). This gives MPs an opportunity, on the floor of the House, to consider further amendments to a Bill which has been examined at committee stage.

3. An amendment (NC11) to the Environment Bill requiring legally binding plastics reduction targets to be set has been tabled by Chris Loder MP (who isn't a signatory to today's letter).

4. The plastic pollution crisis hasn’t gone away:

• The Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean 2020 reported that “An average of 30 drinks containers were found per 100m of beach surveyed this year. Inland, almost all MCS litter picks (99%) found drinks containers.

• Most single-use face coverings used by the public contain plastic. Face masks have played a crucial part of efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus, but they have also led to a rise in litter. The Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean 2020 also reported that: Face masks and gloves were found on almost 30% of beaches cleaned by its volunteers, and more than two thirds (69%) of ‘inland’ litter picks found PPE items.

• During the second national lockdown in November, Keep Britain Tidy’s surveyors found nearly four times as many disposable coffee cups, compared to pre-lockdown levels at the start of the year. Since lockdown many coffee outlets have discouraged or prevented people from using reusable coffee cups - Keep Britain Tidy research (full dataset to be published early 2021)

• A scientific report published in the Chemical Engineering Journal on 17th August 2020, on the global situation found: “The increased waste production related to PPE soon became accompanied by the increased use and disposal of other single-used-plastics (SUP). For instance, demand on plastics is expected to increase by 40% in packaging and 17% in other applications, including medical uses.”