Boris Johnson criticised after telling children recycling doesn’t work

'The recycling thing is a red herring... it doesn't work'

Boris Johnson has been accused of having “completely lost the plastic plot” after telling schoolchildren that recycling “doesn’t work” as a means to ease the climate crisis.

The Recycling Association reacted with astonishment at the prime minister’s remarks during a Downing Street press conference for pupils on Monday, saying they were “very disappointing.”

Anti-plastic campaigners said they applauded Mr Johnson’s stance and urged him to follow it up with measures which would dramatically reduce plastic at source.

No 10 had to tell the public to continue recycling after Mr Johnson said “recycling isn’t the answer” and stressed 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, World Wildlife Federation 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 interjected: “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.

“’Wow’, I think is the first answer,” he 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.

“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 ground-breaking 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.”

Recycling is seen as an important part of maintaining a clean environment. Credit: PA

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.”

'Big famous drinks companies that you may know but I won’t name... Coca-Cola, for instance'

The prime minister meanwhile singled out Coca-Cola as being one of 12 corporations “producing the overwhelming bulk of the world’s plastics.”

He told the children’s press conference on the climate crisis: “There are about 12 companies at the moment, 12 big corporations, that are producing the overwhelming bulk of the world’s plastics.

“Big famous drinks companies that you may know but I won’t name. I don’t know why not, but I won’t name them.

“Coca-Cola, for instance, and others, which are responsible for producing huge quantities of plastic, and we’ve got to move away from that and we’ve got to find other ways of packaging and selling our stuff.”

Coca Cola was singled out by Boris Johnson. Credit: PA

In response, Coca-Cola said it was making “steady progress” in efforts to cut plastic pollution.

A spokesman said: “The world has a packaging problem. As the world’s biggest beverage company, we have a responsibility to help solve it.

“We believe circular recycling solutions are imperative in creating a path to keep plastic out of our natural environments for good.

“We don’t want to see any of our packaging end up where it shouldn’t, which is why we aim to collect and recycle a bottle or can — regardless of where it comes from — for every one we sell by 2030 globally.”