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Fines for littering should be hiked to £500 for a first offence and rise for further infractions, a Conservative think tank backed by prominent MPs including Michael Gove has recommended.

In a wide ranging report urging the UK to become a "Global green giant", the liberal Conservative think tank Bright Blue recommends that Boris Johnson's government follow the example of countries such as Singapore, which imposes a £1,140 fine (S$2,000) for a first-time offender, and up to £5,680 (S$10,000) for those who continue to litter.

Keeping Britain’s public spaces tidy costs the taxpayer in excess of £650 million each year, yet the fixed penalty notice issued by police and local authorities for dropping small items of rubbish stands at between just £50 and £80 in England.

The report also calls for the price of "bags for life" – those made of thicker plastic, designed for repeated use – to rise to 70p, up from 10p, because many consumers are now treating them as single-use items.

Non-recyclable black plastic, commonly used in food packaging, should be banned, it adds, as it contains black pigments that are undetectable by recycling assortment equipment and tend to end up in landfill or be incinerated.

Bright Blue, which is chaired by Evening Standard columnist Matthew d'Ancona, also recommends that plastic packaging made up of less than 35% recycled material should be subject to a tax. The levy on plastic packaging coming into force in April will only apply to such packaging with less than 30% recycled matter.

The report – which calls for the UK to become a world leader in combating biodiversity loss – has been released ahead of COP26 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change scheduled to take place in Glasgow later this year.

Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State for the Environment, said of the report: “As we embark on what has been described as a ‘super year for nature’, culminating in the UN Climate conference in Glasgow, we have a huge opportunity to ramp up global efforts to combat environmental destruction and climate change, which are two sides of the same coin.

“The landmark Environment Bill making its way through Parliament sets us on an ambitious course outside the EU and will cement the UK’s global leadership. Reports such as this from Bright Blue are always welcome and eagerly anticipated by policymakers both inside and outside government.”

Bright Blue researcher Patrick Hall added: “The UK is a world leader in climate change mitigation, most recently shown through being the first major economy to adopt a net-zero emissions target. But there is a need and an opportunity to do the same for biodiversity – to become a global green giant on conservation.

“The current Government is starting to show that global leadership. But we need more new and ambitious conservation policies, both at home and abroad. 2020 is a critical year for the UK to step up.”

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