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Setting the scene for 2023: some early wins for the environment, but more action needed

With a flurry of announcements, including a single-use plastic ban in England and progress on the deposit return scheme, it looks like green issues are back on the agenda.

Following a tumultuous few years, the environment has taken somewhat of a backseat, with the Government’s focus lying on moving out of the pandemic, rebuilding a struggling economy and dealing with international pressures. However, as we start 2023, green issues are seemingly back on the agenda, and here in the UK tentative steps are being made towards reducing single-use plastics and cutting down on waste.

Plastic spoons, cups and forks

Ban on single-use plastics

Starting the new year on a positive note, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs announced that there would be an England-wide ban on a range of single-use plastics, coming into force in October. Among the banned items will be single-use plastic plates, cutlery, polystyrene cups and food containers, billions of which are used in the UK every year, with 90% being incinerated or ending up in landfill. Environmental campaigners have been cautiously welcoming of the announcement, however, concerns have been raised over the exclusion of “shelf ready pre-packaged items”, and single-use plastic bottles, 7.7bn of which are bought every year in the UK, creating an untold amount of pollution.

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Net Zero review

January has also seen the publishing of the highly anticipated recommendations of the ‘Net Zero review’. Commissioned by former PM Liz Truss, and authored independently by Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, the Net Zero review provides some insight into the potential paths the current government could take to reach net zero by 2050. Alongside a wider ambition to scale up waste management capabilities, the review touted reuse as an effective method that could maximise efficiency, cut waste and create jobs. Whether or not the Government takes forward the Skidmore reviews recommendations is to be seen, however, the UK’s broken waste system urgently needs to be reviewed and overhauled to slash the growing amount of plastic waste pollution.

A person putting a plastic bottle in a recycling bin

Deposit Return Scheme

In the final installment of January updates, DEFRA announced that a Deposit Return Scheme had moved another step closer. The Deposit Return Scheme will encourage customers to return plastic bottles and cans to recycling facilities for a cash incentive, with the hope of boosting recycling rates. Whilst the scheme could slash the amount of plastic waste ending up in landfill, some groups such as Surfers Against Sewage have lamented the delay until 2025, whilst others have noted that the scheme fails to incorporate glass and that there is too much emphasis on recycling as opposed to reuse.

Carbon footprint sign

More needs to be done

Whilst there’s much to be positive about in early 2023, BRITA believes the Government must go further on cutting plastic waste, which continues to have a devasting impact on our oceans and natural environment. Policies which champion reuse as the first port of call in waste management must also be prioritised, and as highlighted by the Net Zero review, this could unlock jobs and opportunities whilst slashing waste, creating a truly circular economy.

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