River Pollution

Thank you for contacting me about plastic pollution in UK rivers, this issue matters enormously in West Worcestershire where we have the Rivers Severn, Avon and Teme.

The Resources and Waste strategy, published in 2018, sets out plans to reduce plastic pollution with a target of eliminating all avoidable waste over the lifetime of the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan. The majority of aquatic litter originates from land based sources therefore I believe the best approach to stemming the flow of plastic is by taking action on land.

The UK's world-leading ban on microbeads will help stop potentially billions of tiny pieces of plastic from entering the aquatic environment every year. As well as this, 15.6 billion fewer bags have been handed out to shoppers by the seven main retailers since the introduction of the plastic bag charge in 2015. I am also pleased that following an open consultation, a ban on the supply of plastic straws - excluding those needed for medical purposes - drinks stirrers and cotton buds were banned in 2020.

Ministers have also consulted on a number of key policy measures which will significantly change the way we manage our waste. These include: reforming existing packaging waste regulations; exploring the introduction of a deposit return scheme for drinks containers; and increasing consistency in the recycling system; with a parallel consultation on the 'Plastic Packaging Tax' which the Chancellor announced in the Budget last year. The responses to these consultations will be published in due course.

More widely, I am encouraged that between 2020 and 2025, water companies will invest £3.1 billion in storm overflow improvements. I welcome that Ministers amended the Environment Act 2021 to help crack down on the pollution in our rivers, waterways and coastlines, to better tackle the harm that overflows cause. The Act commits the Government to produce a Discharge Reduction Plan by September 2022.

Thank you for contacting me.