Environment Bill amendments see charges introduced for ‘all single-use items’

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs yesterday (21 October) announced that the Government has tabled a number of amendments to the Environment Bill that will introduce charges on ‘all single-use items’, not just plastics.

UK Houses of ParliamentThe amendments, the Government states, will ‘help cut waste and put an end to throwaway culture’, ensuring that the UK ‘builds back greener and remains a global leader in tackling environmental issues’ ahead of the upcoming COP26 summit, of which the UK is the host.

Two amendments have been tabled for the Environment Bill. The first amendment will create a new single-use items charge power, which the Government asserts will ‘support our shift to a more circular economy’, followed by a second amendment which will require that conservation covenant agreements are executed as deeds. This, the Government states, will help to ensure that such agreements are ‘legally robust and formal’, as well as functioning as ‘flexible, straightforward tools accessible to a wide range of landowners’.

The National Planning Policy Framework is also set to be reviewed to ensure that it is being implemented correctly in the case of ancient and veteran trees and ancient woodland, with a consultation scheduled to strengthen the wording of the framework. Consultations for the Town and Country Planning Act will also be amended alongside these reforms to require local planning authorities to consult the Government when acquiring planning permission for developments affecting ancient woodland.

The Government has also released further information through a Written Ministerial Statement about the upcoming, new Soil Health Action Plan. The Action Plan, it states, will ‘provide a single, strategic approach to driving improved soil health across England’. The plan will focus on the prevention of soil degradation and improvement of soil health by examining how land management practices and planning can be adapted to help protect soil from the impacts of climate change.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this week (20 October), Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “This charge will help us to future-proof the Bill and protect the environment for generations to come by providing a powerful tool to incentivise the right shifts towards more reusable alternatives to single-use items and towards a circular economy. We want to take this opportunity to strengthen our hand and encourage citizens to reduce, recycle and reuse.”

Re-introduced to Parliament in January 2020, The Environment Bill gives the Government the power to introduce environmental legislation following the UK’s departure from the European Union earlier this year, creating a statutory framework for the policies outlined in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. The bill originally failed to pass through Parliament before the 2019 General Election, with its reintroduction announced in the Queen’s Speech 2020.

In a statement, the Government stated that the bill is expected to complete parliamentary passage shortly.

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