We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Plastics Pollution - Actions Speak Louder than words

October 16, 2018 2:19 PM
By Kevin Daws

(From our GLD October 2018 newsletter)
Plastics Pollution - Actions Speak Louder than words

By Kevin Daws

Martin Horwood moving the motion Plastic Pollution and UN Sustainable Development Goals (KNDaws)During the last year the issue of single use plastics has become a major political issue as people, like me, have understood the huge and detrimental impact that plastic is having on our environment. For me the issue came onto my personal radar when I watched David Attenborough's Blue Planet II which highlighted the impact of plastic on marine life and even the BBC launched a campaign called Plastics Watch which had a huge impact on millions of people.

In response to this and some twitter conversations I decided to draft a motion for the recent Autumn Federal Conference about Marine Plastics Pollution which I then circulated for consultation. Through that process the motion was broadened into a more general motion about plastics pollution and I received help and advice from a number of people but most especially Robert Eggleston.

The motion found its way onto the Conference Agenda having been submitted by Cheltenham Liberal Democrats with a few of their own tweaks. Cheltenham Borough Councillor and former MP for Cheltenham, Martin Horwood, moved the motion and, as you probably know, the motion was passed with a couple of amendments after a very good debate at Brighton.

Now that the motion is Liberal Democrats policy we need to use it as a campaigning tool.

Pippa Heylings speaking at Brighton Conference 2018

So what can we do?

The motion debated at the Brighton Federal Conference put forward a number of suggestions:

These are just a few ideas and it is certainly not an exhaustive list and we would be delighted if you would let us know what you are doing in your local areas and communities to tackle plastic pollutions.

Do remember that there appears to be political consensus around the fact that we need to do something to tackle plastic pollution but it is the Liberal Democrats and the Greens who have been leading the way getting Council's to take action. Remember one of our well-worn slogans 'Actions Speak Louder than Words!' As Green Liberal Democrats we need to campaign locally, regionally and nationally to take action and make a difference.

You may find the following links useful for further information but again it is not an exhaustive list: Plastic soldiers (GreenLibDems.org.uk)

Shampoo article in Summer 2018 Challenge Magazine - How many plastic bottles are there in your bathroom?

Tales from the front line: Christian Vassie on the trauma of our love affair with plastic which is a good read and contains a Plastic Lexicon of degradability

10 fantastic innovations in the war on plastic which is on the energy saving trust website

Local Government Association - Liberal Democrat Group website

The Plastic Pollution and UN Sustainable Development Goals Motion passed at the Autumn Conference in Brighton is below:


  1. Notes and fully supports the UN's sustainable development goal 14 which includes targets to reduce marine pollution.
  2. Recognises that marine pollution is a global problem which requires both international co-operation and local community action to eradicate.
  3. Recognises that the use of plastic, especially single use plastic, has become a major environmental problem.
  4. Recognises that designing plastics out is the preferred option.

Conference welcomes:

  1. The UN pledge made by nearly 200 countries, including the United Kingdom, to eliminate plastic from the sea.
  2. The European Commission's proposed ban on the most common single-use plastic items, along with other measures to reduce the amount of plastic waste reaching the oceans.
  3. The voluntary pledge by supermarkets to cut plastic packaging.
  4. The decision by supermarkets, retailers, restaurants and pubs to end the use of plastic straws.
  5. Believes that Local Authorities should be key players in reducing plastic usage.

Conference deplores the failure of the Government to respond adequately to the seriousness and urgency of this issue and therefore calls for legislation to be introduced:

  1. Banning non-recyclable single-use plastics with affordable alternatives; with a target for their complete elimination within a three-year period.
  2. Requiring all retailers and other organisations to reduce the amount of plastic and non-recyclable packaging they use, with immediate action to eliminate hard-to-recycle items such as black plastic and a three-year target to make all plastic packaging either unnecessary, re-usable or recyclable.
  3. Setting targets for large public organisations, such as the NHS, to reduce their use of plastic and find alternatives.
  4. Implementing a deposit system on all food and drink bottles and containers whether they are made from glass, plastic or other materials.
  5. Requiring all retailers and businesses that produce plastics or use them for their products to pay a levy to contribute towards the cost of necessary recycling services and for larger retailers to be subject to a right of return for waste packaging.
  6. Working in partnership with local authorities to:
    1. Produce an action plan to deliver the target leading to the elimination of single use plastic within three years in their local authority area.
    2. Prepare audit trails to demonstrate that plastics are recycled where they cannot be re-used.
    3. Support the formation of local community action groups to assist in delivering the statutory target and provide financial incentives to such groups starting community-wide initiatives including, but not limited to, waste-free shops and cafes.
    4. Introduce a nation-wide standard for the disposal and recycling of key plastics.
    5. Ensure the widespread availability of free drinking water taps.
    6. Resolve any issues relating to the funding and legislative powers required to deliver the required outcomes.
  7. Creating an international task force to work in developing countries on initiatives supporting the elimination of single use plastic in those countries.

Conference further calls on the government to initiate negotiations within the UN for a legally binding international treaty on plastics, including phased reductions in the production, consumption and trade of virgin feedstock, thus encouraging reuse and recycling, and a financial mechanism providing aid and capacity-building assistance to developing countries.

Furthermore, such legislation should:

  1. Place a duty on all governmental organisations to promote the need to reduce packaging of any sort, particularly plastic products, and to replace plastic packaging where possible with compostable materials that are safe to be used for vegetable growing.
  2. Introduce a legal requirement to label all packaging with recyclability information.
  3. Require a public information and education campaign to be delivered through all governmental agencies, organisations receiving public funding and public bodies including schools, colleges and universities.
  4. Provide that, where the use of plastic remains unavoidable, there should be a requirement on all retailers only to use any plastics or other materials that can be recycled through existing or new recycling services or that can be re-used.

Conference calls on Liberal Democrats to:

  1. Campaign for the implementation of these policies and to highlight the impact of plastic pollution in their communities.
  2. Introduce and implement policies through their elected representatives - Councillors, MPs, AMs, MSPs and MEPs - to reduce plastic pollution where they are in a position to do so.
  3. Work through parliaments and assemblies for the introduction of legislation outlined in this motion.
  4. Ensure our own Party fulfils its own responsibilities in this regard in practice.

Applicability: England only; except B (lines 25-29), a) and b) (lines 53-59) and 2 and 3 (lines 71-75) which are Federal.

Please use this Facebook Page to comment on this article