Environment Bill (UK)

I posted months ago about HMG proposal for a new Environment Bill. There has not been an Environment Bill since 1995.

Progress to date has been weak, and the aspects that were published so far related only to the Governance and Principles aspects.

Today, 23rd July, the DEFRA Secretary has published an updated Policy Statement (of intentions) – here.

Note : Environment is a policy area that is devolved to the regional nations, so the legislative proposals below would apply in England only. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would decide themselves whether and what to follow.

Note : this Statement identifies the Environment Bill will be introduced in the second Parliamentary Session (we are still in the First).

Air quality

(1) Legislation on key measures in the Clean Air Strategy – sharing responsibility for tackling air pollution (across local government structures and with relevant public bodies), plus enabling local government to tackle emissions from domestic burning.

(2) Powers for government to mandate recalls of vehicles and machinery, when they do not meet relevant legal emission standards.

Nature

(3) Nature policy to have a local community focus – a mandatory approach to biodiversity net gain requiring developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced, with a 10% increase in habitat value for wildlife compared with the pre-development baseline (national infrastructure projects excepted – we will continue to work to establish potential approaches to achieving biodiversity net gains for nationally significant infrastructure projects and marine development, which remain out of scope of biodiversity net gain in the Bill).

(4) Re net gain, planning and the future Environmental Land Management system (replacing agricultural land subsidies) – a new statutory requirement for Local Nature Recovery Strategies. The aim is for these strategies to help to map out important habitats and opportunities for the local environment to be improved, linking communities’ knowledge and priorities with national environmental objectives.

(5) A new duty on local authorities to consult with local communities to ensure that consultation takes place when a street tree is to be felled.

(6) Legislation on conservation covenants – voluntary agreements between a landowner and others (for example, a conservation charity) to help deliver positive local conservation.

Waste

(7) A series of measures that will fundamentally change the way government, businesses and individuals produce and consume products (this will be a big change).

(8) New legal powers to allow government to set resource-efficiency standards for products, driving a shift in the market towards products that are lasting, can be repaired and can be recycled. Plus clear labelling to enable citizens to make fully informed purchasing decisions.

(9) New powers to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility schemes – for packaging, producers will pay the full net cost of dealing with their packaging waste to incentivise recyclability in its design (this is in line with other countries). At the moment, producers currently only pay about 10% of these costs. This will be a fundamental change to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Producer Responsibility Law.

(10) Legislation to modernise the government’s powers to set producer responsibility obligations, extending them to prevention and redistribution of waste, in particular tackling food waste where there is no Legislation in England.

(11) A simplified approach to recycling across local authorities, making it simpler for the public to recycle. A consistent set of materials will need to be collected from all households and businesses in England, with clearer labelling on packaging.

(12) New powers to enable deposit return schemes, particularly dealing with plastic waste. Plus a new power to be able to introduce charges for specified single use plastic items. (Note, there is new EU Law in this area, I posted about recently).

(13) The Litter Strategy commits to review the mechanism by which councils and other land-managers can be held to account for maintaining their land to the standards set out in the Code of Practice. This includes the current section 91 Environment Protection Act process and other options, taking into account the impacts on local authority prioritisation and costs, the court system and the exchequer.

(14) A series of measures unspecified) to improve the management of waste, enabling better use of resources and to reduce the risk of economic, environmental and social harm.

Water

(15) Legislation to strengthen Ofwat’s powers to update water companies’ licences – in particular bringing the way in which water companies appeal Ofwat decisions in line with that for other utility regulators.

(16) New powers to direct water companies to work together on how they will meet current and future demand for water; making planning more robust, even in drought conditions and/or in areas of water stress, for example by working jointly to transfer between catchments when needed.

(17) A new power to enable future updates to a list of harmful chemicals which must be tackled to protect the aquatic environment.

New Waste Strategy (England)

Waste legislation and policy is a devolved matter in the UK. Today, DEFRA published its Waste Strategy for England, replacing the 2011 waste review and 2013 waste prevention programme. The document “Our Waste, Our Resources: A Strategy for England” is here.

This 2018 strategy has the stated aim to contribute to the delivery of five strategic ambitions:

1  To work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025;

2  To work towards eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030;

3  To eliminate avoidable plastic waste over the lifetime of the 25 Year Environment Plan;

4  To double resource productivity by 2050; and

5  To eliminate avoidable waste of all kinds by 2050.

The document states –

As most of our existing waste legislation is EU-derived, this will be retained in UK law through the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018. And proposals which follow from this Strategy will take account of the future relationship we negotiate with the EU on environmental matters. Where existing legislation is insufficient to deliver our ambition we will take new powers to do so, including through our Environment Bill. And we will work with the devolved administrations to co- ordinate policy on resources and waste, to ensure that approaches are aligned and impacts on the UK Internal Market are minimised.

New Measures for Single-Use Plastics (UK)

The Budget 2018 announced a new tax on produced or imported plastic packaging from 1 April 2022. Subject to consultation, this will apply to all plastic packaging that doesn’t include at least 30% recycled content.

In addition, there are planned reforms to the Packaging Producer Responsibility System, that will also be consulted on shortly.

THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED WITH THE CONSULTATION LINKS, please book mark the post to return to it online, as a new email will not be sent out.

Plastics Update (UK)

The UK Government has been consulting on “the plastics problem”. This consultation has just concluded. The document is here (it is mostly the consultation responses) :

The government response is (stated in the document) :

(1) The government is developing a new strategy on resources and waste that looks ahead at opportunities outside the EU. This will set out the detail of how the government will meet the ambitions for resources and waste that are set out in the Clean Growth Strategy, the Industrial Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan.

(2) The aim of the strategy will be to make the UK “a world leader in resource efficiency and resource productivity”, and “increase competitiveness”. It will set out how the government will work towards ambitions of doubling resource productivity and zero avoidable waste by 2050, maximising the value extracted from resources and minimising waste and the associated negative environmental impacts.

(3) The strategy will be published this year, as will a consultation on the reform of the packaging waste regulations and a deposit return scheme for beverage containers.

Please note : household waste recycling is already adrift of the 2020 recycling targets, and I posted earlier about the EU waste law changes (enacted, changing existing EU waste directives, including the packaging and packaging waste directive, with forward dates – the EU Combined Cycle law) that increase recycling targets further.

Single-use Plastics (Global)

Various initiatives and legal instruments are already in place or announced :

NOTE : I will update this post online (please keep a note, to check online, as you will not receive an email)

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Ireland, UK, France, Canadian cities, US cities, Mexico local bans, Brazil local bans, etc – plastic bags – see August 2017 roundup (Reuters) – here

Kenya plastic bag ban – here

France ban, Scotland (proposal), UK (consultation later in 2018), Costa Rica (proposal) – cotton buds, cutlery, other plastic products

England, Scotland, Wales – microbeads ban (certain products)

EU Strategy on Plastics (separate post) – includes a new proposed Directive on Port Reception Facilities

EU proposals on 10 single-use plastics bans (separate post)

UK consultation (concluded) on tax measures

UNEP (at UNEA-3) non-binding Resolution Marine Litter and Microplastics

China ban on imports of plastic waste for recycling from developed countries (I posted about this)

Extensions to Packaging Producer Responsibility (UK)

Anna McMorrin has today (13th June) introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill to extend the existing Packaging Producer Responsibility arrangements.

Information is set out here – LabourList.

I will update this post, as further information is forthcoming (including the Bill wording). So please make a note to return to this post online, as an email will not be sent out.

NB: Ten Minute Rule Bills are a type of Private Members’ Bills. To become law, a Private Members’ Bill must be taken up by the Government.

Single-use plastics : new rules proposed (EU)

The European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

The proposed new rules (if agreed) will introduce :

(1) Plastic ban in certain products: Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. The ban will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead. Single-use drinks containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached;

(2) Consumption reduction targets: Member States will have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups. They can do so by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge;

(3) Obligations for producers: Producers will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers (such as for crisps and sweets), drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags. The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products;

(4) Collection targets: Member States will be obliged to collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example through deposit refund schemes;

(5) Labelling Requirements: Certain products will require a clear and standardised labelling which indicates how waste should be disposed, the negative environmental impact of the product, and the presence of plastics in the products. This will apply to sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons;

(6) Awareness-raising measures: Member States will be obliged to raise consumers’ awareness about the negative impact of littering of single-use plastics and fishing gear as well as about the available re-use systems and waste management options for all these products.

The Commission’s proposals will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption.

NOTE : some EU member states already have legislation in place or planned, for part or all of these measures.

See here, for the European Commission press release.