Prime Minister Theresa May has announced the 25 Year Environmental Plan, outlining steps to eliminate plastic waste by the end of 2042.

In order to achieve this, the Government will extend the 5p carrier bag charge to all retailers in England, while also working with supermarkets to encourage them to introduce plastic-free aisles in which all the food is loose.

In addition, the Government will also look at how the tax system or charges could further reduce the amount of waste created, with a call of evidence on how to reduce the use of single-use plastics set to take place next month.

May has also announced plans to inject new funding into plastics innovation through a bid into the Government’s £7 billion research and development pot.

In her speech launching the plan, May explained: “Today I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership. We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates.

“To tackle it we will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic.”

According to media reports, critics have described the plan as a “missed opportunity” and labelled the proposals as “worthless” unless they were written into legislation.

Director of sustainable business, Marks&Spencer, Mike Barry, said to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Now, what we’re saying looking into the future is that things have got to change.

“We absolutely believe that change of plastic is inevitable. It’s really important that we work on two things: one is to reduce amount of packaging we’re using to make sure it’s recyclable, but also to cut food waste.”

He added: “Every time we take a pear out, we put it in loose, we risk it’s going to get bruised and battered in our supply chain and the shop and the customers’ home.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove added that it is “important we take whatever we can now”, as well as to “recognise that bringing change to society […] requires acting on a range of levels”.

Helen Munday, Chief Scientific Officer, Food and Drink Federation, commented: “FDF and its members welcome the launch of Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan and its long-term commitment to clean sustainable economic growth. We look forward to studying the details of the Plan, and hope that it will sit alongside the Industrial Strategy in the creation of a long-term framework in which businesses can operate. It’s pleasing to note that the Prime Minister remains committed to an evidence-based approach to establishing the best way to deal with plastic waste and will consult widely.

“The food and drink manufacturing industry has an essential interest in protecting and enhancing the natural environment because of its reliance on a continuous, adequate supply of safe, high quality raw materials. Our members continue to show industry-leading dedication to sustainability, both individually and through our Ambition 2025, a set of collective environmental ambitions for the industry.”

In addition, the National Farmers’ Union highlighted that “farming and the environment must go hand-in-hand and producing quality, home-grown food is critical to the future of the country”, adding that farming is in a “unique position to deliver for the environment as long as there are productive and viable businesses”.

NFU vice president, Guy Smith, noted: “British farming has a unique role in producing a safe, affordable and high quality supply of food as well as protecting, maintaining and enhancing 70% of the nation’s iconic countryside. […]

“It’s vital therefore that a holistic approach is taken and the environment plan must go hand-in-hand with a future food policy, where measures for protecting and enhancing the environment are joined up with policies to improve productivity and manage volatility to ensure that we have profitable, productive and progressive farm businesses post-Brexit.”