UK government accused of hypocrisy as it fights EU recycling targets

environmental plan
Screen capture That's what she says in the environmental plan.

This is after promising "wide-ranging measures to tackle plastic pollution."

TreeHugger Katherine says that plastics are the hottest environmental topic out there right now. Sami says that single use plastics are having their coal moment. I asked Is China's import ban a "Sputnik Moment" for the plastics and recycling industry? So many moments.

But alas, it might all be wishful thinking. In the USA, the oil companies are investing $180 million in plastic feedstock facilities to soak up all of their oil and gas. And in the UK, the Prime Minister talked a good game when she announced "wide-ranging measures to tackle ocean plastic pollution" but, in fact, will not even support the targets set by the European Union to recycle 65 percent of urban waste by 2035. According to the Guardian:

“The UK cannot support a binding target of 65% for 2035,” said the record, compiled by officials from one member state and confirmed by others. Furthermore, the UK said its opposition meant it would not support the overall waste agreement. The recycling target had already been watered down from the 70% by 2030 initially sought by the European parliament.

The opposition, which doesn't like Europe telling the UK what to do anymore than the government does, stands with Europe.

“This Conservative government must be judged on what they do, not on what they say,” said Sue Hayman, shadow environment secretary. “It comes as no surprise that the government are trying to scupper progress on recycling behind the scenes."

The fact is that without making significant changes in the way we live, all of these targets are unachievable. The UK can't even get to the current target of 50 percent by 2020 because recycling has been stuck at 44 percent for years. There are personal changes we can try and make, like the commenter in the Guardian who wrote:

In the last four weeks my wife and I have purged most of the plastic coming into our home by buying milk in bottles via the local milkman, fresh fruit and veg, fish and bread from our local market. We no longer waste food because we do not have to wade through mounds of packaging to see what is in the fridge / freezer. By declining to buy over packaged food from supermarkets we will encourage them to mend their wasteful ways.

But alas, they are rare. Hypocrites like those in the British government are not. As Katherine notes, it has to be societal.

What we need is a focus on instituting reusables and banning single-use plastics -- not just telling people to recycle. We need a full-on elimination of unnecessary, superfluous plastics from our lives, together with investment in innovative, safely biodegradable packaging alternatives.

But this will be as tough as reducing carbon emissions; there are too many vested interests. And they are so convenient!

life magazine 1955© Life Magazine 1955

Related Content on Treehugger.com