Environmental Protection

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:55 pm on 15th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:55 pm, 15th June 2020

Proper cutlery! I hear lots of support.

To highlight the problem of single use, in 2018, McDonald’s UK faced a huge public backlash after the images of their distinctive striped plastic straws on picturesque beaches around the world, and it made a move to paper straws—laudable, fantastic, we would all say. But today it uses 1.8 million paper straws a day and that is 675 million a year. The tragedy is that these straws cannot be fully recycled, so they end up being incinerated, adding to landfill or even getting into our seas—the very thing that they were meant to prevent.

Replacing one dangerous product with a slightly less dangerous product or energy-exhausting product defeats the point, when the reality is that most people do not need to use plastic straws. We can move away from the idea of unnecessary consumption. Huge numbers of supermarkets and food outlets have already moved away from plastics to wooden or compostable cutlery, but these too end up in incineration. As we know, incineration in this country has a particularly poor energy generation ratio compared with other European countries.

DEFRA’s own impact assessment on the regulations has assumed that plastics will be replaced on a like-for-like basis, so while we are pleased to see the Government trying to eliminate plastics, it is very disappointing to see this missed opportunity to tackle the problem of single use. The Government are patting themselves on the back because of a ban on three items of plastics, when we need to shift our throwaway culture. We urgently need the extended producer responsibility scheme that is being considered in the European Union, and we should be taking the lead. Such programmes put an obligation on the producer to create more sustainable products. They incentivise companies that are doing the right thing, as well as disincentivising the wrong thing. When will we see the plastic bottle deposit scheme actually introduced in this place, and when will we see it reflecting the material used, rather than just the one-size-fits-all model that, unfortunately, has been adopted in Scotland?

With fast fashion and the inability to repair, we have not just straws and cotton buds being thrown away, but almost everything we can consume being thrown away. We are creating and destroying at alarming rates.