The UK is falling behind EU countries on laws to tackle plastic pollution, green groups have warned.
EU countries have passed laws in accordance with a directive to ban single-use plastic including cutlery, plates and polystyrene food containers.
The UK has chosen not to put the same bans into place, eco groups said.
21 organisations including Greenpeace, City to Sea, Keep Britain Tidy and Friends of the Earth warned in an open letter to environment minister Rebecca Pow that the UK is falling behind.
Steve Hynd, policy manager at environmental group City to Sea, said: "The EU’s Single-Use Directive was established as a minimum standard designed to encourage member states to go further in their efforts to tackle plastic pollution.
“And that is what we are calling for today, the very basic minimum of standards to be met. It’s frankly embarrassing that while other governments are pushing ahead ours is still lagging behind.
“There is, of course, more to be done in tackling plastic pollution and some of this will and should be achieved through the Environment Bill. City to Sea have long advocated for the UK to introduce a legally binding target to reduce plastic pollution as part of the Environment Bill.
“Our ask today is so much less than that and I honestly can’t believe that we are still having to make the case for this. If the government fails to meet these minimum standards it would be an awful dereliction of their promises to lead on environmental issues post Brexit."
Nina Schrank, senior campaigner at Greenpeace, said: "Our single-use, throwaway society is causing an environmental catastrophe on a global scale.
"The government claims to be a leader in tackling plastic pollution, yet is falling behind in the most basic of measures. They need to match EU legislation in banning some of the most harmful single-use plastics, at the very least.”
Research this year found that thousands of rivers, including smaller ones, are responsible for most of the plastic pollution worldwide.
Previously, it was believed that 10 large rivers – such as the Yangtze in China – were responsible for the bulk of plastic pollution.
But in fact 1,000 rivers (1% of all rivers worldwide) carry most of the plastic to the sea.
This means areas like tropical islands are likely to be among the worst polluters, the researchers say.
The research, by the nonprofit the Ocean Cleanup, used measurements and modelling to work out that 1,000 rivers worldwide are behind 80% of plastic emissions.
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