Theresa May has pledged to eradicate avoidable plastic waste by 2042, as part of a new environmental agenda that she said was now "centre stage" for her government. She said the Conservatives planned "to make ours the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it."

"We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals, untreated, into rivers was ever the right thing to do," she told an audience in west London today (11 January).

Each year, the amount of disposable plastic wasted would fill the Royal Albert Hall 1,000 times over. Getty Images photographer Dan Kitwood recently took a walk along a litter-covered beach at Rainham in Kent. IBTimes UKshares his photos of a tiny selection of the plastic items he picked up at the mouth of the Thames, an important feeding ground for wading birds and other marine life.

The Prime Minister is keen to put various scandals, an ill-judged election and divisions over leaving the European Union behind her and try to broaden the appeal of the Conservative Party. However, while her proposals to extend a five pence charge for a single-use plastic bag to all retailers, to have packaging-free aisles in supermarkets and to create a new Northern Forest were welcomed, they were also criticised by some for not going far enough.

Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion, called May's speech "underwhelming" and "vague".

Craig Bennett, from Friends of the Earth, told the BBC there needed to be a clear timetable of short-term delivery of schemes, "not just woolly promises". "It's nice seeing ministers hug trees - but why are they continuing with unpopular fracking when we've already found more fossil fuels than we can be allowed to burn if we want a stable climate?"