I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on her contribution to the debate, and thank her for encouraging me to speak, as a member of Peers for the Planet. I am an unusual member because, as a businesswoman of long standing—I refer to my register of interests—I am essentially practical. I question the wisdom of virtue signalling and I argue for all countries to play their part, so that we are not disadvantaged economically.
I want to make practical progress on plastic. The crisis has shown that it is the magical substance that its inventors found it to be: flexible, light, clean, cheap and indestructible. It is being put to great use in PPE, ventilators, contactless payment and screens in shops, but the scale of indestructible plastic use has been a growing worry for years, and the crisis is creating an even larger mountain of plastic waste. As we know from experience, this will clutter watercourses and reach the sea, where it will mass in hotspots and have a devastating effect on wildlife and fisheries.
Can we use the crisis to introduce reform in the UK, and to dispense with the patchwork of different systems that I see when I move from Wiltshire to Southwark? There must be a single system of bins for both household and business waste, and a single, clear post-Brexit system of labelling, showing what can be recycled and what cannot. With an advertising campaign of the kind that the Government have pioneered on Covid, citizens and business will get behind recycling. There have been literally years of consultation on different schemes and taxes, and mixed signals from different departments, but mountains have grown, and we have witnessed an unacceptable delay in bringing in a single system to encourage the right consumer behaviour. As others have said, Covid gives us an opportunity, here and elsewhere, to change the paradigm.