Government also confirms previously trailed plans to raise plastic bag levy from 5p to 10p across all shops in England
UK schools are being encouraged by to set themselves the target of eliminating their reliance on single-use plastics by 2022, as the government also today confirmed plans to double the carrier bag levy in England to 10p.
The education secretary, Damian Hinds, has urged headteachers in England to consider using sustainable alternatives instead of non-recyclable plastic for items such as straws, bottles, bags and food packaging.
Hinds said teachers should ensure pupils were aware of the damage that discarded plastics could do to the environment and wildlife.
“On my first school visit as education secretary almost a year ago, the very first question I was asked by a pupil was what we can do to limit the damage of plastic on the environment,” he said.
“Reducing our use of plastic clearly is an important and timely issue which has captured the interest and the imagination of everyone in society.”
Hinds, citing the example of a primary school in Devon that became the first in the country to be recognised as plastic-free by the environmental group Surfers Against Sewage, argued that schools were in a position to make a difference because they could put pressure on suppliers.
Georgeham primary achieved plastic-free status by meeting various targets including removing at least three items of single-use plastic from use within the school.
A key decision involved changing the way milk was supplied to pupils. It used to be delivered in non-recyclable cartons with plastic straws attached in plastic wrappers. After a conversation with the supplier, the milk is now delivered in recyclable containers and the children drink it from washable beakers.
Hinds said: “The leadership shown by schools like Georgeham primary in going single-use plastic-free is an impressive example for us all, and I want work to support every school in the country following their lead by 2022.
“It’s not always easy but we all have a role to play in driving out avoidable plastic waste, and with more schools joining others and leading by example, we can help to leave our planet in a better state than we found it.”
Julian Thomas, the headteacher at Georgeham primary, said his pupils were enthusiastic about the school’s move to plastic-free status and he thought other schools would welcome the challenge to follow its example.
“By making relatively minor changes such as replacing clingfilm for foil in the canteen, we were able to significantly reduce our plastic use in the school. We’re a small school but we think big,” he said.
According to the Department for Education, there is evidence to support the claim that young people are more committed than older people to giving up single-use plastics. It cites research showing that 68 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds own a reusable water bottle, compared with the national average of 55 per cent.
Meanwhile, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, has also confirmed plans to double the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags and extend it to all shops in England, not just large retailers.
The changes, which could come into effect in January 2020, are part of a consultation launched today by the government.
Plans to increase the carrier bag charge to 10p were first revealed by the Prime Minister Theresa May on a trip to Kenya in August. Since first being introduced in 2015, the 5p levy has seen single use plastic bag sales in major supermarkets drop by 86 per cent, according to Defra.
James Lowman, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, welcomed today’s consultation over plans to expand the plastic bag charge. He said the levy had to date been “highly effective at reducing waste” while also raising money for charities.
“Around half of small shops in England already charge for plastic bags voluntarily, with wider support for a mandatory charge,” he said.
Under its 25 Year Environmental Plan, the government is committed to eliminating avoidable plastic waste by 2042. In the budget, the Treasury confirmed it was planning a new tax on any plastic packaging that does not include at least 30 per cent recycled content.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “We want to do even more to protect our precious planet and today’s announcement will accelerate further behaviour change and build on the success of the existing charge.”
This article first appeared at the Guardian
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