I beg to move,
That this House
has considered e-petition 222715 relating to plastic-free packaging for fruit and vegetables.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. It is an honour to open this debate on an important matter, in which I have taken a great deal of interest during my time in this House, particularly as chairman of the protect our waves all-party parliamentary group. I thank the petitioner Edmund Pendrous and the more than 120,000 people who signed this e-petition. The e-petition states:
“In response to the problem of an ever-increasing amount of plastic waste polluting our environment, we need to make supermarkets offer an option of no packaging or eco-friendly packaging for each item of fresh fruit and vegetables they sell.”
There is no doubt that plastic pollution is one of the biggest global environmental challenges of our time. As I am sure we are all aware, in recent times the issue has attracted a great deal of public awareness and increased concern about the damage we are doing to our environment through the amount of plastic waste that we are creating.
It is little wonder that plastic has become so popular: it is lightweight, versatile, moisture-resistant, durable and cheap to produce. Those benefits mean that Britain is not alone in developing a strong appetite for plastic goods. Annual global plastic production has soared in the past 60 years. In 1950, the world’s population produced about 1.5 million tonnes of plastic; by 2016, global production of plastic had risen to 335 million tonnes, with 60 million tonnes produced in Europe alone. The rapid rise in production and subsequent disposal of plastics have brought devastating consequences to all aspects of the environment, particularly to our marine life.
The majority of single-use plastics, which include non-recyclable and non-biodegradable plastic packaging found in shops and supermarkets, are disposed of within minutes of being used. Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans. Every piece of plastic can take decades or longer to degrade, and will simply break down into smaller and smaller particles. We then find plastic entering the ecosystem, where it has the potential to kill seabirds, fish and animals through ingestion, releasing harmful toxins as the plastic breaks up. Larger pieces of plastic can be a threat to the life of marine mammals and seabirds. It is estimated that there are now around 5 trillion macro and micro plastic pieces floating in our ocean, with a weight of over 250,000 tonnes.