Plastic in the oceans – John Redwood’s diary

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During a question and answer session at a local school, environmental issues dominated public policy exchanges as usual.

The two most important environmental issues they raised were plastic in the oceans and the need for more trees. I agreed with them on the importance of these issues.

Ocean plastic raises tough questions about both responsibility and who can remedy the problem.

I argued that the main blame must fall on all those people who threw plastic away irresponsibly in the first place. In the UK, we are fighting this with adult littering laws and strong social pressure on parents and teachers to tell children not to litter. Some other countries need to educate people against littering. The UK also spends taxpayers’ money to clean up waste where people offend. Edges, roads and public places are regularly swept away and debris is cleaned up. More taxpayers’ money is spent on garbage collection, recycling and safe disposal so that our plastic waste doesn’t end up in rivers or the sea, even where it has been incorrectly discarded.

In some other countries, there is less pressure on people to avoid litter and a less effective backup system for intercepting litter before it finds its way across a river into the oceans. There are also bad boat crews that directly litter the oceans. This is particularly difficult to control.

I explained that the UK and other rich countries use foreign aid to promote programs for better waste management and for cleaning up waterways. We cannot force other countries to do this. We need to persuade and encourage.

I set out how the UK government is promoting more woodland, with local and national examples of tree planting. I also pointed out that if we continue to need more homes for more people there will be some counter examples where woods are being cleared to build on the land.


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