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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:30 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Sandy Martin Sandy Martin Shadow Minister (Waste and Recycling) 5:30 pm, 12th November 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I congratulate Steve Double on leading an excellent debate and bringing it to the Chamber today. As he says, pollution from plastics is one of the biggest global pollution issues of our time. Although Britain is not alone in producing and using plastics, I believe that this country can and should be a beacon of good practice. What we in the developed world do will have real influence on what happens in the rest of the world.

The hon. Gentleman took an intervention from my hon. Friend Graham Stringer on having proper checks on our plastics exports, and I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s commitment in respect of alternatives for packaging and reductions in the amount of packaging. In particular, I welcome his support for the points that my hon. Friend Mr Sheerman and Jim Shannon made on education and simplifying packaging, so that we can maximise recycling.

I also welcome the speech made by my hon. Friend Tulip Siddiq. We are all well aware of the news that has come out about plastic contamination of tap water. Alongside our worries about the natural world, public health worries are at the forefront of public concern about plastic pollution. It is leading to a real public move towards doing something about the scourge. I reiterate what my hon. Friend said about Camden Council’s recycling rewards scheme. Will the Government investigate using national financial incentives to roll out best practice across local authorities? Whatever we do about recycling and waste minimisation, it has to be done with central Government working in conjunction with local authorities. Whatever we do musts be founded on knowledge and a scientific appreciation of what happens to different types of plastic. We need the Government to take a lead on that.

John Howell mentioned cucumbers. I must admit that at first I assumed that he was saying that cucumbers do not need to be wrapped at all. I have a greengrocer just across the road from me in my constituency; none of its cucumbers are wrapped, and I have never seen a rotten cucumber there. The hon. Gentleman may well be right that cucumbers last a bit longer when they are wrapped up, but plenty of fruit and vegetables do not last longer wrapped. I have always thought that bananas come in the perfect natural wrapping and really do not need additional wrapping, and I suspect that in many other cases wrapping contributes nothing to the fruit or vegetable’s keeping.