Environment / Isles MP proposes law to tackle scourge of plastic pollution

Plastic washed up on the foreshore. Photo: Shetland News

LEGALLY binding targets to phase out all non-essential single use plastics are at the heart of a proposal for a new law proposed by Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

The Orkney and Shetland MP today (Thursday) re-introduced to parliament a bill to cut plastic pollution. A similar law was introduced by the MP last year but it ‘fell’ when parliament was dissolved ahead of the elction.


The bill is supported by a cross-party group of MPs and a coalition of organisations including Friends of the Earth, Surfers Against Sewage, Keep Britain Tidy, Tearfund and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

Despite intense public concern about the scourge of plastic pollution far tougher action is needed by the UK government to tackle the problem comprehensively, the MP said.

In recent months the problem at hand has been further highlighted with discarded single-use face masks.

Alistair Carmichael
Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael. Photo: Shetland News

“We need firm action on plastic pollution now, well beyond what we are already doing on climate change,” Carmichael said.


“Plastic pollution has not gone away with arrival of the pandemic and in some ways we have reversed progress – we have all seen the new scourge of disposable face masks around town.

“The pandemic may be with us for months more, but the damage done by plastic pollution and microplastics will be with us for decades, if not centuries.

“Every community – urban, rural, island – is affected by plastic pollution. Much of this plastic ends up in the sea, so we are as likely to find waste on the beaches in the Northern Isles as anywhere else.


“Still more concerning is the spread of microplastics – pollution that we cannot see.”

The Plastics Pollution Bill would introduce:

  • A 2025 target to end non-essential single-use plastics. A ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds came into force in England earlier this month. But other single use plastic items such as plates, cutlery and polystyrene plates and drink containers have not been included.
  • A statutory long-term target to significantly cut plastic waste and pollution by 2042 – by phasing out all but the most essential uses of plastic. The bill also requires plastic waste and pollution to have been substantially and progressively reduced before this date.
  • The establishment of an independent advisory Committee on Plastics Pollution (CPP) – to advise the government on policy measures to achieve statutory targets and develop a list of essential plastic uses that may not be phased out

Plastic pollution campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Camilla Zerr, said: “Legally-binding targets are urgently needed to stem the tide of plastic that continues to pour into our environment.

“We’re delighted Alistair Carmichael is championing this crucial issue, and urge MPs from all parties to back the Plastic Pollution Bill.

Head of campaigns and policy at Surfers Against Sewage Amy Slack added: “At this critical time for the environment the Plastic Pollution Bill set’s the gold standard for tackling the plastic pollution crisis.

“For too long plastics have polluted the ocean and our beaches and its time that we see progressive policies that reduce plastic pollution.

“By adopting the measures in this Bill, the government would demonstrate the commitment already made to introduce world leading environmental legislation that tackles the root causes of the plastic pollution crisis.”

Carmichael’s bill proposal is so far supported by a cross-party group of MPs including Caroline Lucas (Green), Dr. Matthew Offord (Con), Wera Hobhouse (LD), Ben Lake (Plaid), Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Lab), Stephen Timms (Lab), Chris Loder (Con) and Geraint Davies (Lab).