Theresa May : Campaigners slam United Kingdom plans on cutting plastic waste

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images                   The government's successful 5p plastic bag charge is to be extended to small shops

Christopher Furlong via Getty Images The government's successful 5p plastic bag charge is to be extended to small shops

Reacting to the plan, Helen Munday, Chief Scientific Officer of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: "FDF and its members welcome the launch of Defra's 25 Year Environment Plan and its long-term commitment to clean sustainable economic growth".

He said: "The ambition to extend producer responsibility should look beyond plastics to develop a whole life-cycle approach, across a range of materials with good properties for reuse and recycling".

It was "a very significant document", Bishop Holtam said, and accompanied by a "very significant speech".

Ministers have already unveiled plans to crack down on the ivory trade and increase sentences for animal abusers.

Environmental groups have welcomed indications that the Government could introduce a tax but have urged ministers to act swiftly and decisively.

Plastic waste will be slashed through measures including extending the 5p single use plastic bag charge to all sizes of retailer, and encouraging cafés and transport hubs to offer free water refill hubs to cut plastic bottle use, the government said.

"The pretext for today's speech is the 25-year environment plan".

The Prime Minister also confirmed plans to explore a tax or charge on single-use packaging.

The only exemptions for the extended 5p levy are likely to be some pharmacies and pet shops selling goldfish. He did, though, warn that, at present, there was "not enough detail [in the plan] to be really sure what they are going to do".

The Environment Secretary said the Government was "determined to tackle the throwaway culture which plastics encapsulate".

Policies proposed included eliminating all avoidable plastic waste, creating 500,000 hectares of new habitat for endangered species and providing £5.7m for a new Northern Forest.

'Improve within a generation " The overall aim sets out goals for improving the British environment, within a generation, and leaving it in a better state than it was founded.

"It's vital therefore that a holistic approach is taken and that the new environment plan must go hand-in-hand with a future food policy, where measures for protecting and enhancing the environment are joined up with policies to improve productivity and manage volatility to ensure that we have profitable, productive and progressive farm businesses post-Brexit".

"There must be an ambitious Environment Act in the next Parliament or all this is simply the government saying what the voluntary sector has been saying for a long time", she said.

But there is scepticism about how far the environment department Defra will be able to carry out its plans. The head of global policy at Christian Aid, Dr Alison Doig, said that it was great to see the Government's new plans.

Christian charity Tearfund said the government has "woken up to the world's waste crisis" but urged the United Kingdom to "lead the way" by giving some of its overseas aid budget to fighting waste.

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