UK must take action to stop oceans being treated "like a sewer", MPs warn

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 18 January 2019 in News

In a new report, the Environmental Audit Committee urged UK ministers to clampdown on exports of highly-polluting plastic waste

Image credit: Dods

The UK Government must step up its war on plastic to stop the oceans being treated "like a sewer", according to a new report from the Environmental Audit Committee.

In a new report, the committee urged UK ministers to clampdown on exports of highly-polluting plastic waste to other countries which dump it in the sea.

The committee found that 40 per cent of the world's oceans are "heavily affected" by human activities, with climate change, overfishing and pollution among the greatest threats to marine life.

Blasting an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude to the seas, the Committee said the UK Government could be doing "much more" to stop waste reaching the ocean - including "stopping exports of waste to countries with poor recycling infrastructure".

It warned: "We are treating our seas as a sewer. Most of the action required to protect the seas relies on action on land."

The group of MPs has demanded that ministers set new legally-binding targets for water quality in a bid to cut chemical pollutants that pour into the ocean from the land.

The committee has also urged ministers to bring forward the Government's 2042 target date for eliminating avoidable plastic waste and called on them to "expedite" a planned deposit return scheme, which would see consumers get cash back if they return empty plastic containers.

The scheme was first unveiled by Environment Secretary Michael Gove in 2017, but is now not due to see the light of day before 2023.

Mary Creagh, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said: "Our children deserve to experience the wonders of the ocean but climate change poses a triple whammy of threats from ocean warming, deoxygenation and acidification, which are decimating marine life.

"We have to stop treating our seas as a sewer. Plastics, chemicals and sewage are choking our oceans, polluting our water and harming every ocean species from plankton to polar bears."

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