One of the things that we have valued more during this pandemic is the ability to have access to the natural world and outdoor spaces. With all of the restrictions in place and three lockdowns which have required us to stay at home, the ability to get out and exercise, and form a connection with the natural world has been important.
However, the blight of litter on our environment has come into sharp focus over the last year in Cornwall. We have all seen our favourite walks, beauty spots and green spaces suffer from dropped masks, plastic bottles or food wrappers.
Last week the government launched two consultations that aim to strengthen some of the laws around the way we manage waste and to encourage companies to use less packaging and take more responsibility for recycling the packaging they do use.
It is vital that we stop the millions of tonnes of plastic that are being dumped every year. In the UK alone, we go through an estimated 28 billion drinks bottles and cans a year, with nearly 12 million tonnes of packaging placed on the market in 2019. As we strive to tackle climate change and build back greener from the pandemic, we need to come together for our planet across all of society to make a lasting difference.
We have already made huge strides to tackle plastic pollution, including banning microbeads in rinse-off products, announcing a plastic packaging tax and prohibiting the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. But there is still a lot more to do to turn the tide on plastic.
Our 5p plastic bag charge has shown just how effective small financial incentives can be in encouraging far-reaching behaviour change, with a 95% drop in supermarket sales and billions of harmful bags taken out of circulation.
Through new powers in the new Environment Bill, manufacturers will take more responsibility for the packaging they produce, with the levying of fees not only encouraging more recycling but also greater recyclability. Much of our packaging is too difficult to recycle and we must ensure that more is captured and turned back into new products.
We are also developing plans for a new deposit return scheme. Many of us remember the old glass Corona bottles where you could return them and receive a 10 pence deposit. The idea is to do something similar with plastic bottles which will attract a surcharge and people will be able to return them to collection machines or retailers to get a refund.
We want to bear down on the waste and carelessness that destroys our natural environment and kills marine life. With the G7 in Cornwall this year, it is important that we set a high standard for our international partners who will be visiting our region in June. From changing the way business works to increase recycling and helping households, we are on a pathway to protect our precious environment for future generations.