LONDON-Exporting polluting plastic waste to developing countries will be banned or restricted under a new law.

The rule presented to the UK Parliament is aimed at protecting poorer nations against becoming the dumping ground for unwanted rubbish.

The latest trade data shows that some 356,233 tonnes of plastic waste was sent for recycling from the UK to developing countries in 2018. The plastic often ends up dumped in waterways. This has resulted in many developing countries sending back waste to rich nations.

The revised Environment Bill also rules that firms producing packaging must take more responsibility for products and materials they put on the market. Environmentalists say the bill should also include measures to reduce the amount of plastic produced in the first place. Other powers in the bill include the promise of legally-binding targets to reduce air pollution from ultra-fine particles known as PM2.5s.

There’s also a framework for long-term legal targets to support nature and improve the quality of air and water.

How strong is the new bill?

Green groups have welcomed much of the bill but they say that, in some ways, it still leaves environmental protection weaker than under the EU.

They are especially concerned about the role of a proposed new “independent” environmental watchdog that will replace the over-seeing power of the EU and hold ministers to account for their policies after Brexit.

The EU can threaten to fine nations that fail to meet environmental laws – that threat forced the UK to tackle air pollution more seriously.

The new Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) won’t have the power to fine the government. What’s more, its members will be appointed by ministers, so critics say it won’t be fully independent.

The government says it will still hold ministers to account – including on the issue of the UK meeting its 2050 Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions target. Most of the clauses in the draft legislation were unveiled before the election.

The revised bill introduces the promise of a two-yearly review of significant developments in international environmental legislation to ensure the UK keeps up with green protections.

What does the bill do for wildlife?

The bill will support the government’s 25-year plan to improve the state of nature by demanding that developers show they will actually improve conditions for wildlife.

Critics say this may prove hollow unless the current balance of power between developers and local councils is shifted away from developers.

The bill also includes steps to give communities a greater say in the protection of local trees, following the row over tree felling in Sheffield.

There will be a more consistent approach to recycling across England to tackle the “postcode lottery” on waste collections.

Will plastic spoons face a levy?

There will be powers to create a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and a mechanism for introducing a levy on single-use plastics that could be applied to takeaway cutlery.

The Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “We are facing climate change and our precious natural environment is under threat. We need to take decisive action.

“We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim.”