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Environment groups welcome plastic pollution plans but urge caution on homes planning

Press release and Link member quotes relating to housing and plastics in the November Budget 2017

15 November 2017

Throwaway plastic pollution plans welcomed:
Environment groups have today welcomed the Chancellor’s commitment to investigate charges for single use plastics. This has the potential to make a big environmental impact, as plastic bag charges have shown, with a more than 80% fall in bags being handed out by retailers since charges were introduced.
The NGOs are, however, also urging the Government to take the following actions to both discourage companies and individuals from using throwaway plastic and incentivise sustainable alternatives:

  • Set charges on single-use plastics at a level which will achieve real change
  • Allocate revenues generated by any plastic charges to fund environmental conservation and improvements
  • Provide incentives to manufacturers to reduce single-use packaging and encourage environmentally-friendly alternatives
  • Phase-out the most harmful plastics that are most difficult to recycle

Chris Butler-Stroud, CEO of Whale and Dolphin Conservation said: ‘Drastic plastic action is the only way to curb the damage that plastic pollution is doing to our environment. With our oceans set to contain more plastic than fish in just thirty more years, and the damage to sea life already evident as so clearly seen in Blue Planet 2, we need action now. This is a welcome first step which must be followed up with decisive measures.’

Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society said: 'We welcome the investigation announced by the Chancellor in today's budget. The evidence is already there to show that our oceans are choking in plastic. We've seen how a small charge has made a big difference with plastic carrier bags, and applying this to all throwaway plastics would lead to a significant drop in damaging plastics getting into our streets, rivers and seas.’

Lyndsey Dodds, Head of Marine Policy at WWF-UK, said: ‘Plastic is suffocating our seas. Too often, birds, fish, turtles and whales are found dead with plastics in their stomachs. This problem will only get worse unless urgent action is taken. The announcement in today’s Budget on tackling single-use plastic is a step forward, but must be ambitious in its scope and scale if the UK is to achieve its goal of leaving the environment in a better state than it inherited it.’

Louise Edge, Senior Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace said: ‘The root of the problem here is the relentlessly increasing torrent of plastic products which are intended for a moment’s use but last for centuries. Accommodating this tidal wave of waste has huge costs, both economically and environmentally. We urgently need to innovate ourselves out of this mess with new approaches and materials, and the Government’s role should be to both deter unnecessary plastic production and incentivise the sustainable alternatives, some new and some tried and tested. We hope the Treasury understands the important responsibility they have taken on.’

Llewelyn Lowen, Scientific Officer at the RSPCA, said: 'We warmly welcome this first step towards plugging our plastic pollution problem. Despite initial concerns, plastic bag charges have had little impact on our pockets but a big impact on the environment, and throwaway plastic charges would do the same. We need to see this consultation deliver drastic action and for the Government to also incentivise manufacturers to make all packaging more environmentally friendly.'

Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency: 'We welcome this positive step towards tackling our plastic pollution crisis. The UK must demonstrate global leadership, both in delivering measures to eliminate plastic pollution nationally and leading international efforts to urgently address this major threat to marine life. If we are to avoid scenes like those in Blue Planet 2 in future we must take decisive action now.’

Richard Benwell, Head of Government Affairs at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, said: 'Our throwaway plastic culture is more than market failure: it’s market fantasy that our planet is indestructible. Throwaway plastic charges could help save dolphins, whales, hedgehogs and birds from death by plastic. We welcome the announcement and hope it means the Environment Department and the polluter pays principle are finally being afforded due weight in the Treasury.’

Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife: ‘We warmly welcome investigation of plastic pollution, an issue that impacts on animals of all shapes and sizes. Targeted taxes work well in driving down environmental damage, as shown by the plastic bag charge, landfill tax and aggregates levy, however they also offer a rare opportunity to invest funds in repairing harm. In this case directing plastic tax income to restoring disappearing wildlife on land and in the sea would complete the virtuous circle.’

Andy Lester, Conservation Director of A Rocha UK said: 'Plastic in our hedgerows, verges, and seas is strangling birds and suffocating small mammals. Steps to tackle this through throwaway plastic charges are very welcome, but the devil is in the detail. Any charges need to deliver real change to protect our environment.’

Dominic Jermey, Director General of ZSL (Zoological Society of London), said: 'We are delighted to see a commitment from the UK Government to look for ways to discourage the use of single-use plastic. 700,000 plastic bottles are discarded every day in the UK alone, contributing to the pollution of our ocean and killing marine life. As lead partner of the #OneLess campaign, we are trying to create a refill revolution across London, engaging with London businesses, NGOs and policy makers to reduce the number of single-use plastic water bottles getting into the ocean via the Thames. ZSL’s marine scientists will also be providing evidence to the government to help shape future policies that could save our seas.’

Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: 'This is another welcome green pledge from the Government. Plastic is killing hundreds of thousands of animals in our seas and countryside every year. The Government must follow this commitment through with actions that can curb our polluting ways and end their devastating consequences for wildlife.'

Key Facts:

  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that plastic in the ocean is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of sea creatures each year (source)
  • By 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
  • Use of plastic bottles is expected to increase by over 20% by 2021 (Euromonitor International), but recycling rates in England have stalled since 2012 and fell for the first time in 2015 (from 44.8% in 2014 to 43.9% in 2015) (source).
  • A 15p deposit or reward return scheme (DRS) for bottles 500ml and under and 30p for those over 500ml is likely to see recycling rates of bottles reach 90 per cent or more (source).
  • England’s plastic bag use dropped 85% in the first year after charging was introduced – with 500mn bags handed out in the first half of 2016 compared to 7bn in the whole of 2014. (Defra)

House plans need clear environmental protections:

The country needs more truly affordable and high quality homes. However, they must be delivered in a way that creates minimum harm to wildlife, habitats, landscape and heritage, with maximum enhancement of our environment - to create happier and healthier communities. We welcome the Chancellor’s commitment not to further weaken the application of Green Belt policies. However new developments must also take account of the fact that urban green space and some brownfield sites can also provide important wildlife habitats and a community resource. The emphasis needs to be on providing high quality homes and communities, which protect and enhance the local environment, not fitting the maximum number of homes onto a site at minimum cost to developers.

Victoria Bankes Price, Planning Adviser at Woodland Trust, said: ‘More than half of UK plant and animal species are in decline and hundreds are at risk of extinction. The loss of ancient woodland, heathland, green areas and brownfield sites with high environmental value is contributing to this problem, as valuable habitats are lost. If we want to ensure a bright future for British nature, then plans for hundreds of thousands of new homes must effectively address risks to the environment. If we are to protect our most vulnerable species, under-resourced planning teams must not be made to rush through the planning process.’

Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer at People’s Trust for Endangered Species, said: ‘It’s not just the Green Belt that provides wildlife havens. Hedgehogs and other at risk UK wildlife find refuge in some brownfield sites and valuable green spaces taken on by housing developers. To protect our vulnerable wildlife we must make sure that planning takes environmental risks into account and is not rushed through.’

Nicola Hodgson, Case Officer at Open Spaces Society, said: ‘New homes are essential for our growing population, but they must enhance our environment, not harm it. Not further weakening Green Belt protections is welcome, but some brownfield sites can also become refuges for vulnerable species and much-valued open spaces for communities. So planners must also assess risks to nature and the community for developments on brownfield and other green sites. Making housing developments work in harmony with the environment is key to developing sustainable communities that thrive and are enjoyable to live in’.

Ruth Bradshaw, Policy and Research Manager at Campaign for National Parks, said: ‘We recognise the urgent need for more affordable housing but this has to be planned and delivered in response to local needs. National Parks are some of our most beautiful and inspiring landscapes with the highest levels of planning protection, but they are also living, working landscapes. New housing in National Parks must be well-designed and of an appropriate scale and size for the high quality environment in these areas.’

  • Wildlife and Countryside Link has developed guidance for local planners on considering wildlife, architectural and community needs in redeveloping brownfield sites.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • Member organisations supporting this response include: A Rocha UK, Badger Trust, Buglife, Campaign for National Parks, Environmental Investigation Agency, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Humane Society International UK, IFAW, Institute of Fisheries Management, the Marine Conservation Society, Open Spaces Society, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, RSPB, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, WWF-UK, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Woodland Trust, ZSL (Zoological Society of London), RSPCA
  • Wildlife and Countryside Link is the biggest coalition of wildlife and environment charities in England, and operates as part of a UK-wide coalition - Environment Links UK. Our members practise and advocate environmentally sensitive land management, and encourage respect for and enjoyment of natural landscapes and features, the historic and marine environment and biodiversity. Taken together our members have the support of over 8 million people in the UK and manage over 750,000 hectares of land. See www.wcl.org.uk

Media Contact: Emma Adler, Wildlife and Countryside Link
Telephone: 0207 820 8600
For interviews please call the relevant organisation directly

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