Prime Minister Theresa May will launch a 25 Year Environment Plan today, which will include a call for supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles for loose produce and for the 5p plastic bag levy to be extended to smaller shops.
The government will also fund more research into 'plastics innovation' and will work with Commonwealth countries to reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans, while children will receive more education about the natural world through a Nature Friendly Schools programme.
In a speech later today introducing the 25 Year Environment Plan, Theresa May is expected to say: "We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals, untreated, into rivers was ever the right thing to do.
"In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.
"In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.
"This plastic is ingested by dozens of species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds, causing immense suffering to individual creatures and degrading vital habitats. One million birds, and over 100,000 other sea mammals and turtles die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste. One in three fish caught in the English Channel contains pieces of plastic.
"This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time."
However, the announcement made ahead of May's speech made no mention of a coffee cup levy or plastic bottle deposit return scheme – both proposals made by the government's own Environmental Audit Committee – while the 5p carrier bag charge already applies to all retailers in Scotland and Wales. An extension to include all businesses would bring England – where currently only retailers with 250 or more employees are eligible – in line with the rest of Britain.