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UK News

Leaders of Evangelical Alliance, New Wine and C of E say Boris Johnson must cut plastic pollution

by Cara Bentley

Faith leaders, including Gavin Calver, the Bishop of Durham and Christian charity Tearfund say the PM should aim to cut plastic waste in the Environment Bill. 

Twelve Christian leaders have added their voice to a plea to Boris Johnson to put into law plastic pollution reduction targets. 

In a letter organised by Friends of the Earth, Gavin Calver (CEO of the Evangelical Alliance), John Coles, Kate Wharton, Mark Melluish and Paul Harcourt (all from New Wine) sign their support alongside: Rt Revd Dr John Inge, Lord Bishop of Worcester; Rt Revd Dr Emma Ineson QHC, Bishop of Penrith; Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield; Rt Revd Mark Tanner, Bishop of Chester; Rt Revd Paul Butler, Lord Bishop of Durham; Rt Revd Ric Thorpe, Bishop of Islington; and Rt Revd Simon Burton-Jones, Bishop of Tonbridge. 

The call is also supported by Tearfund, Neal's Yard Remedies, Caroline Lucas MP and the National Union of Students. 

They say: "Public concern over the risks and harms of plastic pollution remains enormous. The 'Blue Planet effect' has been sustained by a steady flow of scientific studies showing plastic pollution in oceans, soils, drinking water, the air we breathe and the food we eat. The government has responded with some positive initiatives including product bans, levies and a tax on virgin plastic to drive greater recycling. 

"Overall, though, the approach has been piecemeal. The vast majority of plastic pollution sources, ranging from single use packaging, vehicle tyre dust, microfibres from synthetic clothing, spillage of preproduction plastic pellets ('nurdles') and more, remain unaddressed. We would like to encourage you to go further." 

The faith leaders and environmental charities argue that the pandemic has shown how essential plastic is in healthcare but that there is still large-scale consumption of single use plastic and throw-away that can be limited. 

They add that "we need an overarching approach that achieves long-term and interim targets to reduce plastic pollution" but also safeguards the plastic needed for healthcare and well-being. 

Switching single-use plastic for single-use replacements is also warned against, with them saying this is already creating waste of other materials. 

"Addressing the systemic problem of plastic pollution is a complex challenge but rising to that challenge will have far-reaching benefits. The strength of public, political and corporate concern over plastic pollution is a historic opportunity to shift away from single-use and throw-away business models in favour of an economy emphatically focused on waste reduction and reuse.

"The Environment Bill provides the UK government with the chance to seize that opportunity. In so doing we can show global leadership and inspire similar changes across the world.

"We have come together as a coalition of the concerned to ask for plastic pollution reduction targets to be set in the Environment Bill, in order to reduce the harm that this is causing to wildlife, human health and the environment."

The Environment Bill has gone through the Committee stage in parliament and had its report stage on Tuesday in the House of Commons. 

It includes the possibility of allowing charges to be applied on single-use plastic items. It also aims to create a weekly food waste collection for everyone in England and encourage deposit schemes for returning bottles to companies. 

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