PRIME Minister Theresa May has pledged to end all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.

The commitment is part of the UK Government’s 25-year plan to improve the natural environment and was set out in a major speech yesterday.

“I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly,” May said.

Environmental activists have expressed anger that the proposals will have no legal force, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said 25 years was “far too long” to take action.

Corbyn said the “throw-away” culture had to be tackled “now”, after his party described May’s plans as a “cynical attempt at rebranding the Tories’ image”.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also criticised the UK Government for a lack of urgency on tackling the scourge of plastic pollution.

Sturgeon hit out at the 2042 deadline set by May for the eradication of all avoidable plastic waste in the UK.

Under the plan, supermarkets will be urged to introduce “plastic-free” aisles while taxes and charges on single-use items such as takeaway containers will be considered.

The announcements, which have been agreed by Cabinet, included confirmation of the extension of the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags to all retailers in England and a commitment to help developing nations tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste, including through UK aid.

In her speech, May said: “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 into rivers was ever the right thing to do.”

She added: “In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1000 Royal Albert Halls.”

May is the latest Tory leader to embrace the environment in the hope of winning votes. She insisted an interest in nature was “not something that is new to me” – but a former close aide said the strategy had originally been planned to be as boring as possible.

The 25-year plan follows a ban on the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and action to stamp out the trade in ivory.