Amendment 119

Part of Environment Bill - Committee (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 30th June 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of The Earl of Lytton The Earl of Lytton Crossbench 6:45 pm, 30th June 2021

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to add my voice in general support of these amendments. It is always a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, with her rapier-like perception of how we might do things better and differently. I commend the usual channels on what is probably a very appropriate grouping, but it does cover a huge area of concern.

On Amendment 119, moved so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, I certainly agree that setting a deadline for producer responsibility is necessary and that we need to force the pace. We have been waiting too long and, without the pace being forced, I fear that, quite literally, the can will get kicked further down the road.

On Amendment 120, from the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, I have a sense of déjà vu here. I share with the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, a revulsion at things such as the Whitechapel fatberg. I also declare a proprietorial interest as an owner of private drainage systems. I have long prevailed upon tenants, holiday visitors, ordinary visitors and my own offspring not to put unsuitable things in drains, not least that product that noble Lords will recall claims to kill all known germs, including, I should say, the useful flora of any septic tank. These are among the things that we have to tell people not to use in private drainage systems.

In fact, many of these items, whether solids or fluids, should not go into foul drains of any sort, whether municipal or private. I agree that clear instructions on things such as nappy liners and wet wipes merely confirm to me that the information needs to be simpler, waste disposal more intuitive and the general public better informed. However, in moving to make this more rigorous, we can help by forcing the process of substitution with flushable alternatives, as advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron.

I noted the laudable campaign of the Nappy Alliance in Amendment 292, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. Of course, as we have heard, nappies are only part of the problem and many other sanitary products are involved, but I would say that I tread carefully here. However, as an experienced user of drain rods and high-pressure drain flushing systems, I support the general thrust of these things with considerable fervour.

Earlier in Committee we had a discussion on single-use plastics. Again, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, and her Amendment 124, that we need to force the pace on publishing a scheme for dealing with this. It is very much down to the Government to produce that.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, reminded us in a very timely manner that resource efficiency must be one of our overarching touchstones in considering this. There has to be a degree of proportionality. We have to know what strategically we are getting at so that we can look at the thing in microcosm. I very much support that.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on labelling, brings in a vital part of providing better information on products of all sorts and—this is perhaps where one of the low-cost things might come in—generating cultural change. I think there are many willing members of the public up and down the country who, with better information and knowledge about the adverse effects of these things, would willingly and voluntarily move in the right direction. We need to try to tap into that. Personally, I am tired of searching for information on contents and potential hazards and for container recycling codes which are often badly printed or covered up by something else and so on. It would be very easy to do a great deal better.

The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, referred to out of sight, out of mind. There is one thing that has always worried me. Certainly, in my youth it used to be the standard advice that if you found a bottle in your late Uncle Fred’s garden shed, but the contents were not clear because the label had fallen off, you put it down the loo. That should not happen because there are some quite dangerous chemicals floating around. There needs to be better information about what to do with that.

When we talk about householders taking things to recycling places where they can be disposed of, please let us make sure that there is enough capacity and that they do not have to do what happens in one household recycling depot near me, which is that you have to go on the web and make an appointment to go there, otherwise you will not get in.

There are many things that we can do. On plastics, I am a great believer that the throwaway society is wrong. I am a great user of previously used plastic containers for all sorts of things. I obviously recycle the ones that I do not use, but some of them have been perfectly good substitutes for things that I would otherwise have gone out and purchased, and they last for many years—as containers for garden purposes, for property maintenance and so on. If some plastic items had a second or even a third life available to them, we would go some way to not requiring so many to be purchased in the first place. However, in general, I very much support the thrust of these amendments.