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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:17 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of John McNally John McNally Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment) 5:17 pm, 12th November 2018

It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I congratulate Steve Double on securing this extremely topical and very important debate. I admire his consistency on issues of environmental pollution and its effects on our everyday lives. His involvement with Surfers Against Sewage and many other organisations is to be commended.

The petition asks for supermarkets—we have not yet touched on the huge problem of commercial catering supplies—to offer customers an eco-friendly option of no packaging: a gesture of libertarian paternalism is required from major retailers, to offer their customers the choice of buying fruit and vegetables with or without plastic wrapping. Plastic-free aisles are a great nudge to focus all our minds on a waste and pollution-free environment. The petition has received nearly 125,000 signatures, and the number is growing, which shows that a great many people are very concerned about the issue.

There are several recycling initiatives out there, looking at how to recycle different products. That is always good to observe and hear about. For example, some companies are making efforts to solve their own packaging problems. Recently, the huge brand name of Kellogg’s announced a scheme whereby Pringles tubes can be posted to TerraCycle using freepost labels. Additionally, Colgate and TerraCycle have announced the launch of a Colgate oral care recycling programme, which is an interesting development. At face value, they seem to be good initiatives, but then confusion enters the dialogue.

Confusion comes by way of Simon Ellin, the chief executive officer of The Recycling Association, who has described the schemes as a fudge that does not solve the issues. The statements and initiatives are confusing and contradictory, and they beg the question of whether the organisations are unable to have difficult conversations with each other. Do the Government have to initiate or host talks between these important corporations and organisations to resolve the aforementioned issues? I look forward to the Minister telling us whether she hosts any conversations between those organisations.