Fruit, vegetables and other fresh foods should be sold loose instead of in plastic packaging, Theresa May is to tell supermarkets in a Government war on plastic waste.
The Prime Minister is promising the Government will work with supermarkets to encourage them to introduce plastic-free aisles in which all food is loose.
This will give consumers the choice to make greener decisions and promote the use of less damaging plastic packaging, according to the Government.
Launching a 25-year Environmental Plan in a major speech, the Prime Minister is making the bold pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within a quarter of a century.
And condemning plastic waste as “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”, she says the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill the Royal Albert Hall 1,000 times.
The call to increase the sales of loose fresh foods follows a Conservative peer urging the Government to force supermarkets to scrap “unnecessary” plastic wrapping on vegetables, specifically cucumbers.
Former Conservative MP Lord Hayward told Sky News last month that UK supermarkets should follow other European supermarkets which he says offer customers a larger selection of vegetables unwrapped.
The Cucumber Growers Association estimates 490 tons of plastic wrap is used to cover cucumbers in the UK every year, with around 220,000 tons of cucumbers sold in 2016.
“I want the Government to impose the pressure on the retailers and the retailers to think about the position and educate the customers,” said Lord Hayward.
“By doing both of those, you will actually dramatically reduce the amount of waste that we have around.”
Other new green measures in the PM’s 25-year plan include tax changes to reduce waste, more funding for plastics innovation and £10m for schools to teach children more about the environment.
Mrs May also says she is putting Ocean Rescue on the agenda at a Commonwealth summit in April and pledging to use more UK aid on ridding the oceans of plastic waste.
In her speech, the PM will talk about how we will look back in “horror” at the damage done to the environment and how so much plastic was allowed to be “produced needlessly”.
She will add: “In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.
“This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time.”
Claiming that the UK will demonstrate global leadership, the PM will say: “We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates. To tackle it we will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic.
“I want the Britain of the future to be a truly Global Britain, which is a force for good in the world. Steadfast in upholding our values – not least our fierce commitment to protecting the natural environment.
“When we host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April we will put the sustainable development of our oceans firmly on the agenda.
“We will work with our partners to create a Commonwealth Blue Charter and push for strong action to reduce plastic waste in the ocean.
“We will direct our development spending to help developing nations reduce plastic waste, increase our own marine protected areas at home, and establish new Blue Belt protections in our Overseas Territories.”
Greenpeace has praised the Government for wanting to tackle plastic waste, but called the plans a “missed opportunity” as they do not match the “scale of the environmental crisis”.
The campaign group called for deposit return schemes.
Labour attacked the Tories’ environmental record, saying they have cut renewables support and allowed air pollution to escalate.
Sue Hayman, shadow environment secretary, called the plan “a cynical attempt at rebranding” their image and said the proposals are “weak”.
She called for a fracking ban and for a new Clean Air Act as well as backing Labour’s environmental amendments to the Brexit bill next week.
The Government says that to encourage industry to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and make them easier to recycle, it will look at how the tax system or charges could further reduce the amount of waste we create.
A call for evidence on how to reduce the use of single-use plastics will begin next month.
In addition, there will be new funding into plastics innovation through a bid into the government’s £7bn research and development pot.
It is estimated that 8.3bn tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. Research indicates that without urgent action to cut demand this is likely to be 34bn tonnes by 2050.
In the UK alone, during its recent Great British Beach Clean Up, the Marine Conservation Society found 718 pieces of litter for every 100m stretch of beach surveyed, and of this, rubbish from food and drink made up at least one fifth.
The plans to help more children engage with the environment will be delivered through £10m for school visits and a Nature Friendly Schools programme to create school grounds which allow young people to learn more about the natural world, targeting schools in disadvantaged areas first.