Dubbed “one of the great environmental scourges of our time,” by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, plastic-waste in the UK alone fills up an area that equals a thousand Royal Albert Halls (a hall that accommodates 12,000 people) every year. But in 25 years, the United Kingdom will eliminate as much plastic-waste as possible, according to a speech May gave on January 4, promising her people that the country will lead on environmental issues.
Environmentalists like Craig Bennett, head of Friends of the Earth, and Tom Burke, from the green think-tank e3g, have welcomed May’s announcement, albeit with some reservations. “It’s nice seeing ministers hug trees – but why are they continuing with unpopular fracking when we’ve already found more fossil fuels than we can be allowed to burn if we want a stable climate?” wonders Bennett. Burke says that there are lots of things that May’s plan doesn’t deal with. For example, the government is being taken to court for the third time over illegal levels of air pollution.
The Wildlife Trusts‘ Stephanie Hilborne finds that, aside from the legal gaps, “the plan looks good in many ways.” Although May’s plans and ambitions lack legal grounds, this notion has been long awaited by Britons like Nicola and Richard Eckersley, a couple who launched Earth.Food.Love, a grocery store in the British town of Devon that is free from plastic-waste. They invite customers to bring their own jars / containers and fill them at the shop, making for an experience that not only eliminates manufacturer’s excess packaging, but also allows customers to determine exactly how much they need of a product.
“We need a clear timetable of short-term delivery of schemes, not just woolly promises of doing something good in the future,” says Bennet. For example, in late August 2017, Nairobi ratified the world’s harshest plastic bag ban after three years of discussion. The bill rules that producing, selling or even using plastic bags in Kenya could lead to imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000. Kenyan hypermarket chains like Carrefour and Nakumatt had already started offering customers cloth bags as alternatives as the law took effect later in August.
Also in January 2017, New Delhi banned all disposable plastic bags to limit plastic-waste-related pollution. “We direct that the Okhla plant shall continue to operate subject to the order of the tribunal… All the corporations, DDA and other public authorities, including NCT of Delhi, are directed to take immediate steps for reduction and utilisation of dumped waste,” the bench, headed by by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar, said. “Each of these sites is a depiction of mess that can be created for environment and health of people of New Delhi,” the tribunal added, referring to the polluting landfills. The plants will be issued fines of $7,300 if they do not comply with the new regulations.
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