plastic bottles for recycling

Has Boris Lost the Plastic Plot Ahead of COP26?

With the global climate summit imminent, Boris’ latest banger?

That recycling plastics is a “red herring” and doesn’t work.

Speaking to a group of schoolchildren at a Downing Street press conference, he said, “It doesn’t begin to address the problem. You can only recycle plastic a couple of times, really. What you’ve got to do is stop the production of plastic.” 

The PM had been asked by the youngsters what the Government could do to reduce plastics being dumped in the ocean and harming marine life. He admitted that “plastic is a massive problem.” He highlighted steps that had already been taken to reduce single-use plastics. These included banning the use of plastic stirrers and straws. Plus, charging for plastic bags. 

Recycle vs Reduce?

However, Boris stressed, “Everybody has got to learn to use much less plastic, particularly the packaging industry.” He noted that 12 companies, including beverage giant Coca-Cola, were producing “the overwhelming bulk of the world’s plastics”. 

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive of WWF UK, was also present for the press conference. When she said, “We have to reduce, reuse and recycle,” Boris interrupted her, saying, “It doesn’t work. If people think that we can recycle our way out of the problem, we will be making a huge mistake. We need to reduce.”

Green groups, who believe recycling is the vital tool for solving the climate crisis, reacted with astonishment. The Recycling Association’s Chief executive Simon Ellin told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, “It’s very disappointing. I think he has completely lost the plastic plot here, if I’m honest.” He continued, “We need to reduce, and I would completely agree with him on that, but his own Government has just invested in the resources and waste strategy, which is the most groundbreaking recycling legislation and plan that we’ve ever seen, with recycling right at the front of it. So he seems to be completely conflicting with his own Government’s policy.”

However, anti-plastic campaigners applauded Boris’ stance. They have urged him to follow up with policies to reduce plastic at source. Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, said, ”Less than 10% [of plastic] is actually recycled in the UK. Despite being touted by industry as a solution to the problem, all it has done is justify overproduction and created an industrial addiction to this indestructible, toxic material.”


During the 40 minute press conference Mr Johnson also discussed the UN climate change summit in Glasgow. He called COP26 “perhaps the most important summit this country has had in our lifetimes.” He insisted the UK would ensure every world leader in attendance commits to tackling climate change. He wants more net-zero targets, congratulating Australia on its recent commitment. However, Boris admitted that this would be “very, very tough. ” He said, “I’m worried. It is touch and go. But, I think it can be done.”

COP26 will take place from 31 October to 12 November and will be attended by over 100 world leaders. Find out more about our COPtimism virtual event here.

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