Plastic-free Packaging (Fruit and Vegetables) — [Mr David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:03 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 5:03 pm, 12th November 2018

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that suggestion. It is no problem at all for me to look at Oxford City; it is the next district council to mine. Both councils have very good recycling. I shall certainly look at that and see how it gets on.

I recently returned from a visit to Israel, and there were enormous markets everywhere with enormous quantities of fresh food and vegetables. People took along bags, ordered what they wanted—if they knew the seller very well, even feeling the product first—and simply put it in their bags. There was no packaging whatsoever. I do not yet claim to be so old as to remember some things, but I remember when that was the normal way of purchasing fruit and vegetables in my area. There is something about that that we should go back to.

When we go to markets overseas, there is an instant smell—almost as soon as we get off the plane—that is characteristic of that country and which comes, to a large extent, from the raw fruit and vegetables and the herbs and spices that are produced there. They are not wrapped up and placed where they cannot be smelt. Smell is an important part of the debate, because if we cannot smell a product, how do we know whether it is fresh or ripe? The colour is perhaps an indication, but I have always gone by smell and touch. Those two things are two very important things, and it is insane, therefore, that we use so much packaging, for the environmental reasons but also because of our experience of and relationship with food.

A number of options are available, one of which is to buy smaller portions. We do not need to buy eight tomatoes if we are perhaps going to use only four. I also like the idea of the boxes of vegetables that are produced. I know that they are relatively expensive, but the vegetables come unwrapped. They are all the better for that, and you can get a good feel for them.

I know that plastic has a role in keeping food fresh and keeping dirty hands off it, but it would still be nice occasionally to see vegetables with the soil attached, before taking them home to wash and cook them. Plastic keeps sweat away from the vegetables and prevents contamination, but there must be other ways of doing that, using technology to overcome the problem.