Boris Johnson says 'recycling plastic doesn't work' ahead of COP26

25 October 2021, 14:40 | Updated: 25 October 2021, 15:01

"What you've got to do is stop the production of plastic," Boris Johnson told a group of children
"What you've got to do is stop the production of plastic," Boris Johnson told a group of children. Picture: Downing Street

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson told a group of children today that recycling "doesn't work" as a means to ease the climate crisis.

The PM made the remarks during a Downing Street press conference for pupils on Monday. His comments have been criticised as "very disappointing" by climate campaigners.

Mr Johnson also joked that to the children that humans could be fed to animals to help the planet.

His joke was in response to a question about redressing imbalances in nature.

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No 10 had to tell the public to continue recycling after Mr Johnson said "recycling isn't the answer." He stressed instead the need to reduce the amount of plastic that is used.

"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," he said.

"The recycling thing is a red herring," the Prime Minister added after naming and shaming Coca-Cola as being one of 12 corporations "producing the overwhelming bulk of the world's plastics".

Appearing alongside Mr Johnson, WWF UK's chief executive Tanya Steele said: "We have to reduce, we have to reuse - I do think we need to do a little bit of recycling, PM, and have some system to do so."

But Mr Johnson replied: "It doesn't work."

Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association trade body for independent waste paper processors and their equipment suppliers, was shocked at the remarks.

"It's very disappointing. I think he has completely lost the plastic plot here, if I'm honest.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman had to say Mr Johnson continues to encourage people to recycle, when asked by journalists in Westminster.

"Yes, the Prime minister was setting out that recycling alone is not the answer," the spokesman said.

"We're taking a wide range of action across society to cut plastic pollution.

"Simply relying on recycling alone, as the Prime Minister set out, would be a red herring - we need to go further and take wider action."