Environment secretary Michael Gove said that laws to set up a deposit return scheme (DRS) will be drafted by 2020 and that the resources and waste strategy is scheduled for September this year.
Giving evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), Gove said DRS legislation would be included in an Environment Act that he wanted to include in the next Parliamentary session.
He added: “If there is an alternative legislative vehicle that we can use before then, then I’m absolutely open to that happening.”
Gove told the committee the DRS consultation would be held after the current consultation on single-use plastics taxation ends.
“We need to consult with devolved administrations as well as industry, but we hope that details of that scheme will follow the Treasury’s response on the taxation regime towards single-use plastics,” he said.
Responding to questions from EAC chair Mary Creagh, Gove indicated that the resources and waste strategy was taking longer than first thought because of the “scale and nature of the challenge that we face”.
He said: “I hope that we will publish it in September. I think that appreciation of just how much we need as a Government, as a country, as a world to change the way in which we approach waste and think about resources has been borne in all of us during the course of the last year.
“What we want to do is make sure when we do bring forth our strategy, that it meets the challenge of the time.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Gove also indicated that a DRS will be designed around on-the-go recycling.
After the committee hearing, Creagh said: “It is disappointing that having announced the DRS last year, the Government will not be bringing this vital part of tackling plastic waste until 2020 at the earliest.”
Creagh also pressed Gove on the precise definition of ’zero avoidable plastic waste’, a measure outlined in Defra’s 25-year plan. Gove said the definition “will evolve as technology evolves and the industry meets the challenge”.
Meanwhile, the Government has announced a forthcoming ban on the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
A consultation on the ban will be launched later this year. A Government statement read: “In order to eliminate these items from use, the Government will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt. It will also propose excluding plastic straws for medical reasons.”
Prime minister Theresa May has also called on the heads of Commonwealth countries to join in the fight against plastic pollution.