Michael Gove last night gave his strongest hint yet that he will give the go-ahead to a plastic bottle return scheme.
The Environment Secretary said he wanted to make it ‘simpler and easier’ to recycle plastic bottles to stop them polluting oceans.
In his speech to the Tory conference, he condemned ‘environmentally disastrous’ EU rules that will be scrapped after Brexit.
Michael Gove last night gave his strongest hint yet that he will give the go-ahead to a plastic bottle return scheme
He also attempted to claim the mantle of environmentalism for his party, insisting the Conservatives were the ‘first and most ambitious green party’ in this country.
‘As Conservatives … we are instinctive defenders of beauty in the landscape, protectors of wildlife, friends of the earth,’ he said.
Mr Gove has described a plastic bottle return scheme as a ‘great idea’ and his department will now examine how it could work.
He issued a ‘call for evidence’ on the best ways to reward members of the public who recycle drinks containers.
The move follows a Daily Mail campaign to slash the torrent of plastic poison damaging the environment and harming wildlife.
Mr Gove also hailed the 5p plastic bag charge for slashing the number used by 83 per cent, and said new laws to ban plastic microbeads would be published later this year.
Both policies followed Daily Mail campaigns.
The Environment Secretary said he wanted to make it ‘simpler and easier’ to recycle plastic bottles to stop them polluting oceans
Announcing the next step towards what he called a ‘reward and return scheme’, Mr Gove said: ‘We must protect our oceans and marine life from plastic waste if we are to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
‘That means tackling the rise in plastic bottles entering our waters by making it simpler and easier to recycle and dispose of them appropriately. Today we are launching a call for evidence to help us understand how reward and return schemes for plastic bottles and other drinks containers could work in England.
‘This approach has already seen great success in other countries such as Denmark … we want to hear people’s ideas on how we could make it work.’
A working group will report back early next year. Mr Gove said: ‘This adds to the progress we have already made in cleaning up our oceans by significantly reducing plastic bag use and drawing up one of the world’s toughest bans on plastic microbeads.’
Mr Gove also attempted to claim the mantle of environmentalism for his party, insisting the Conservatives were the ‘first and most ambitious green party’ in this country
Addressing delegates in Manchester, Mr Gove said he wanted a ‘green Brexit’ and that outside the EU Britain can better protect the environment.
He said the Common Agricultural Policy was ‘environmentally damaging and socially unjust’, adding: ‘It has damaged natural habitats, hit biodiversity and harmed wildlife, reducing the numbers of farmland birds, bees and small mammals.’
The Common Fisheries Policy meant ‘drastic overfishing and the depletion of a wonderful, renewable, natural resource’, he said, insisting that after Brexit, British fishermen would be ‘at the head of queue’ to fish in British waters.
Mr Gove was applauded when he confirmed the story – reported in Saturday’s Daily Mail – that he will extend the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences from six months to five years.
Around 57 per cent of plastic bottles sold in the UK last year were collected for recycling. In Denmark, which runs a deposit and return scheme, the level is 90 per cent.
Last week the Welsh government said it was considering a deposit and return scheme. The Scottish government has signalled it wants a charge on cans and plastic bottles.
Plymouth University research found more than a third of fish caught by trawlers in the Channel contained plastic.
PM vows to tackle racial inequality
Theresa May pledged to confront ‘uncomfortable’ truths about the way black and Asian people are treated in Britain, after a review revealed significant divisions.
The Prime Minister will today release details of an ‘unprecedented’ audit of racial disparities – and pledge to close the gap.
The review by the Cabinet Office found ethnic minorities are less likely to have a job or own their home. It comes as Tories look for ways to build support among ethnic minority voters, who backed Labour in large numbers at the election.
Findings from the audit of schools, hospital, employers and courts will be released next week.
Mrs May, who identified racial disparities as one of the ‘burning injustices’ facing Britain, promised to build ‘a country that works for everyone’.
Announcing plans to expand mentoring programmes and help businesses close the employment gap, she said Britain had ‘come a long way’ on racial equality but still had work to do.
Go-ahead close for Heathrow runway
The third runway at Heathrow could be given the green light within months, Chris Grayling announced last night.
The Transport Secretary said he was aiming to give the long-delayed project the formal go-ahead in the first half of next year.
After the election, doubts emerged over whether the project would get government approval.
But ministers are now increasingly bullish about the prospects of getting the legislation needed through the Commons, the Mail understands.
They estimate around 300 Tory MPs will back the move – even though Cabinet ministers such as Boris Johnson and Justine Greening could oppose or abstain. With support expected from many Labour MPs, Northern Irish parties and the SNP, they expect the plans to pass through Parliament.
At the Conservative Party conference, Mr Grayling said the expansion ‘will make a difference right across this country’.
He also announced plans to roll out electronic tickets across most of the rail network by the end of next year. An £80million programme will enable smart payment methods, meaning paper tickets do not have to be used.