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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay 4:30 pm, 12th November 2018

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for another good intervention. I largely agree that recycling needs to become commercially viable: something that businesses invest in because they can make money from it. There are ways in which we can encourage that to happen—and we should, to get to the point where we do not send our plastic elsewhere to be recycled because its being recycled here has a value for our economy, as Graham Stringer said. Clearly, we would all love that to happen.

I also acknowledge the recent Budget announcement of a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic products that do not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. That is another important message from the Government, and it shows that they are taking the issue seriously and seeking to introduce solutions.

I turn to the specific issue of plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables in supermarkets. The petition rightly points out that it can be incredibly difficult for consumers to avoid purchasing items packaged in plastic, especially in the fruit and vegetable aisle. It is all too common for people to accept the fact that all our fruit and veg is wrapped in plastic, but several hon. Members present will admit to being old enough to remember when that was not the case. That our fruit and veg comes in a plastic wrapper is a relatively modern development, which we have accepted. It is right to challenge that now. We do not have to accept that norm: there could be alternative ways to reduce the amount of plastic used to package our food.

We have to strike the right balance, however. We do not want our desire to decrease plastic packaging to create another problem by increasing the amount of food waste produced. That is where innovation and other types of packaging that can protect and preserve our food should be encouraged and would be hugely welcomed. We need to acknowledge plastic’s benefits in preserving food, extending its shelf life and keeping it clean for consumption, while being aware of the damage it causes.