EFRA launches inquiry into Government’s handling of plastic waste

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has announced a new inquiry into the Government’s tackling of the plastic waste problem.
It will examine the management of plastic waste, scrutinising how the UK Government intends to tackle its plastics problem, and whether its targets go far enough.

Houses of ParliamentThe Committee is appointed by the House of Commons in order to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

In terms of plastic targets, the Government aims to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

By 2042, the Government has set a target of eliminating all 'avoidable' plastic waste, with an ‘ambition’ of zero avoidable waste by 2050 – in pursuit of this goal, plastic packaging taxes and deposit return schemes will be implemented.

It is estimated that five million tonnes of plastic are used in the UK every year, of which almost half is packaging.

Despite high-profile campaigns to encourage recycling and reduce plastic use, just 32 per cent of all plastic is currently recycled.

Concerns have also been raised regarding the volume of plastic packaging waste that is exported to other countries, where some has been found to end up being dumped or burnt rather than recycled. 
The cross-party Committee will now be exploring the measures announced by the Government to achieve both its 2042 goal, and its shorter-term 2025 ambition.

MPs will also question how alternatives to plastic can be found and supported, and what more can be done to ensure that plastic waste is not sent abroad simply to be dumped.

The inquiry’s questions:

The Committee is seeking answers to the following questions, with an initial deadline of 10th September:

  • What measures should the UK Government take to reduce the production and disposal of single-use plastics in England? Are the measures announced so far, including a ban on certain single-use plastics and a plastic packaging tax, sufficient?  
  • How should alternatives to plastic consumption be identified and supported, without resorting to more environmentally damaging options?  
  • Is the UK Government’s target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by 2042 ambitious enough?  
  • Will the UK Government be able to achieve its shorter-term ambition of working towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025?  
  • Does the UK Government need to do more to ensure that plastic waste is not exported and then managed unsustainably? If so, what steps should it take?

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Committee, commented: "We have a plastics problem.”

“Over the past 18 months, even the most environmentally conscious of us have had to resort to single-use plastics in our efforts to control the spread of covid-19.”

“But the tide must turn on plastic use, and fast.” 
"The Government has announced many new measures to combat our reliance on disposable packaging and products.”

“It is essential that these measures go far- and fast- enough, and that we do not just end up exporting our problem overseas."