The government will launch a war on waste as part of a 25-year environmental plan that will encourage supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles where food will be sold loose.

In a speech launching the policy on Thursday (11 January) the prime minister will pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within a quarter of a century.

Theresa May will say: "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."

The move follows calls to scrap unnecessary wrapping on vegetables. The Cucumber Growers Association says that 490 tons of plastic wrap is used each year to cover cucumbers.

"In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly. This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time," May will say.

Each year, the amount of disposable plastic wasted would fill the Royal Albert Hall 1,000 times.

The prime minister will announce the extension of the 5p charge on plastic bags to smaller retailers currently exempt, use aid money to help developing countries tackle pollution, increase marine protected areas in the UK and create a protected "blue belt" in Overseas Territories.

There will also be £10m made available to fund education programmes for children while in addition, the government will encourage the development of more recyclable plastic.

Nurdles plastic beaches
Plastic waste is washed up on South Troon beach on January 26, 2017 in Troon, Scotland. Getty

"Today I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership. We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates," she will say.

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?"

Meanwhile, Stephanie Hilborne from the Wildlife Trusts told the BBC: "This plan looks good in many ways, but it has no legal under-pinning so it could completely disappear."

According to estimates, a staggering 8.3bn tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, which could rise to 34bn tonnes by 2050.