My Lords, this group concerns packaging and single-use items. I shall speak in support of Amendment 292 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. All the amendments in this group have a degree of urgency.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, spoke passionately to Amendment 119, which would ensure that producer responsibility for new packaging is in place for January 2024. I have spoken before about the need for producer responsibility on plastics and I fully support the amendment. The noble Baroness is quite right to emphasise the need for producer responsibility to be implemented without delay. After all, there has been extensive consultation. I am obviously more impatient than the noble Baroness, since I would have chosen an earlier date. However, I accept that manufacturers should be allowed time to change their practices and that this cannot be achieved overnight.
My noble friend Lord Chidgey quite rightly raised the issue of those households with septic tanks, a large percentage of which will be in rural areas. For the septic tanks to function as designed, chemical cleaning products and wipes should not be used and should be phased out nationally. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, on this point.
My noble friends Lord Bradshaw and Lady Scott of Needham Market, and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, would require the Secretary of State to publish a scheme by December 2021 on the disposal of single-use plastics. This urgent timeframe meets with my approval. Wet wipes are causing tremendous problems and should not be left to volunteers to clear up.
My noble friend Lord Teverson’s Amendment 129 provides part of the answer for the Government. If all products were adequately and clearly labelled using a consistent format that the public could easily recognise, they would be more likely to read the information and take notice. This commonly approved and consistent design cannot be in 6 point font on the very bottom of the package. It will need to be of sufficient size for the purchaser to easily read on the front of the package, rather than having to hold it up over their heads to read what is on the bottom, which often happens when the package contains wet food.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, raised built-in obsolescence in household goods such as washing machines. Redundant white goods are extremely difficult to get rid of.
My noble friend Lady Humphreys spoke about the use of single-use plastics and the role of the Welsh Senedd, which wants to ban 19 types of single-use items, including plastic cutlery. The Senedd is concerned about the impact of single-use plastics coming over from the rest of the UK into Wales.
Amendment 292 is definitely not on a glamorous subject. There is no doubt that disposable nappies are extremely convenient. I wonder whether there is a Peer in the Chamber, including the Minister, who has not changed the nappy of a baby at some stage. My mother bought me two dozen terry nappies when I was expecting my first baby. They lasted until my second child no longer needed them and they still had a life in the garage as cleaning cloths. There were disposable nappies around, but they were costly and so were used only when we went on holiday. My granddaughter was kitted out with reusable nappies—a very different kettle of fish from the terrys of my day. They had a set of poppers, which meant they could fit a range of sizes, and were extremely colourful.
Disposable nappies are costly, but the cost is spread over the infancy of the baby or toddler, whereas reusable nappies require an initial outlay, but they last and can be passed on. Despite the initial outlay, reusables could save parents £1,000 and possibly more if used on more than one child.
For there to be a modal shift from disposable to reusable nappies, several things need to happen. Single-use nappies need to be disposed of safely and hygienically, not mixed with ordinary household waste. Local authorities and health centres need to promote reusable nappies, especially at postnatal and baby clinics. Fully flushable liners need to be labelled as such in large letters on the front of the packet, not in microscopic writing on the back. This is essential for households not on mains drains. A publicity campaign to encourage parents to switch from disposable to reusable nappies should be given high priority.
A quick search on Google shows a number of supermarkets stocking reusable nappies and online companies selling them. This is not, as they say, rocket science. I fully support this amendment.