I beg to move,
That this House
has considered e-petition 167596 relating to the banning of non-recyclable and non-compostable packaging.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. The petition’s aim is clear. Regardless of the potential challenges posed in achieving it, I am sure we all support its aspiration. The environmental impact of packaging is a significant and growing concern for consumers, Government and retailers. It is not an issue only here in the UK, but I believe that the people of the United Kingdom have an especially keen sense of responsibility towards our environment and the finite resources of the islands we call our home.
The challenges in achieving the aim set out in the petition break down to a number of key areas: innovation in packaging materials to increase recyclability; the incentivising of manufacturers and retailers to use a larger percentage of recyclable and compostable materials; greater uniformity from council to council on the materials that can be recycled; and a general reduction in excess packaging.
Manufacturers and traders have a legitimate need to ensure that their products reach consumers in a satisfactory condition and that perishable goods are adequately protected to prevent them from spoiling. It is important to recognise that protective packaging plays an important part in preventing damage to the goods that people have purchased, which they rightly expect to find in a good condition. None the less, there is agreement among consumers, legislators and industry that the total use of recyclable and compostable materials is a goal that should be pursued.
Personally, I am concerned about the excessive use of packaging. I am sure we have all at times been baffled by the amount of unnecessary packaging that fills up our recycling bins; I will not be the only person here who is frustrated by that as a consumer. Although there has been a general improvement over the years as the public’s sensibilities have changed, producers could do much more to limit further the use of packaging materials. Of course, consumers also do not want to see any increase in price, and that is a challenge.
We all, I am sure, actively engage in delivering leaflets in the run-up to local and general elections, which usually fall a few weeks after Easter. I am always struck by how much Easter egg packaging there is in recycling bins, and the situation is similar shortly after Christmas. We have to question seriously the excess packaging used in many products.
The recent introduction of the 5p charge for plastic bags was an example of a Government initiative that has worked well to reduce the use of non-biodegradable carrier bags in the UK. That was a consumer-facing initiative, however, and it may be that similar initiatives could be introduced to help encourage the same sort of changes in the manufacturing and packaging industries.