Building on our green credentials

We are the party who introduced the 5p charge for plastic bags and set up the Green Investment Bank. We led the way on investment in renewables and in green technologies. So what’s next?

Party members would have received a recent newsletter with a link to the party’s vision on how we can save our seas from plastic pollution.

We are calling for the government to commit to a Plastic-Free Charter.

We need to tackle our throw-away culture by providing incentives to reduce, reuse and recycle.

I couldn’t agree more.

Aberporth, in West Wales, has decided to live without plastic. Shops are now selling bamboo toothbrushes, takeaways using paper straws and wooden disposable cutlery. I am inspired. Definitely the way forward. There are green alternatives to our use of plastics.

Eurostar is planning to halve its use of plastic. It will start with all the free water bottle it hands out to (some) passengers and also address the packaging of food items.

Perhaps we should all book the milkround, having our milk delivered in bottles rather than purchasing it in polluting plastic?

And what do you think about adopting Norway’s plastic bottle recycling scheme? I think it’s a great idea.

Lib Dem peer Lord Tony Greaves led a recent debate in the Lords on China’s ban on plastic waste imports. He said

I remember back in the Liberal Party in the 1970s, when we declared that we should as a country move towards zero waste. The in-phrase is now “zero untreatable waste”; people seem to be catching up with us. We have the 5p plastic-bag charge in operation, which I remind noble Lords was a product of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government. The Daily Mail likes to claim credit for it, but who cares really?

…The statistics are eye-watering. Between 2012 and 2016 the UK exported 2.5 million tonnes of scrap plastic to China. The developed world consigned some 7.3 million tonnes of used plastic to China in 2016 alone. China’s scrap paper imports in 2016 were a massive 28 million tonnes, 3.8 million of that from the UK.

The new ban—which, I have to say, in many ways I welcome because it is making people wake up to the problem—threatens to destroy the business model of the UK waste industry together with its supply chain, and threatens to leave local authorities firmly in the lurch.

…We have short-term solutions based on short-term financial benefits, setting aside longer-term environmental damage and paying no attention to risks…. It is a product of global neoliberal economics and a classic case of its fundamental flaws.

…We now have an opportunity for a better system in a whole range of environmental areas, including recycling.

So it’s beyond our use of disposable, non-recyclable, coffee cups, which of course is a real issue. We need to look at how we use all plastics and sort it out.

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at

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  • Shops are now selling bamboo toothbrushes, takeaways using paper straws and wooden disposable cutlery.

    These are not without their problems, albeit different to the use of plastics, you only need to look at the wooden disposable chopstick market to see both the nature and scale of the single-serving, single-use problem.

    Personally, with Brexit and the significant downturn in the economy being forecasted, a commitment to a charter seems weak; Brexit gives us an opportunity to bring green credentials and policies to the fore and enable a move away from the oil-based economy.

  • I like the sound of Norway’s scheme. Partly because sometimes a plastic bottle is much more practical than a glass one for the end user, and also because there are environmental consequences of transporting everything in heavier and bulkier glass bottles, and because it would be possible to bring in a workable deposit scheme fairly quickly, whereas eliminating plastic bottles from the supply chain would be much more complicated and time-consuming. We can’t afford to wait.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Feb '18 - 5:31pm

    It’s all about a cultural shift. What about banning all single use items unless they’re biodegradable? A tax on bottled water would also help.

  • Thank you for a very useful article.
    Whilst searching for related information I found this rather interesting link to a Science magazine item about mercury being released from permafrost due to climate change.
    The picture is awesome.
    Slightly more on topic
    Regarding plastic bags, who knows where charging was first introduced? Our nearest neighbours in Southern Ireland managed it nearly 16 years ago but we had to wait until Lib Dems were in Government.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Oct '18 - 5:50pm

    There should be a political response to Simon Reeve’s TV programmes about the Mediterranean, not just terrorism in Libya or human rights in Morocco but plastic in Spain. Hundreds of hectares of green houses with plastic roofs, simply discarded and washed into the sea by heavy rain. This is an issue that should be addressed by the EU, which includes most of the consumer countries.
    Episode 4 went out on Sunday. Simon also examines the working and living conditions of the migrant workforce, even the legal ones.
    He also visits Ceuta.

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