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

The hon. Lady makes a good point. The amount of fresh-food plastic packaging that is created contributes hugely to the amount of plastic waste that we as a country produce. It is estimated that about 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste are produced by supermarkets selling food in plastic packaging to households.

I am sure that we all have a favourite fresh-food item that is packaged in unnecessary plastic. I will not steal the thunder of other hon. Members who will comment on theirs, but mine is the cauliflower. When I go to buy a cauliflower from my local supermarket, I am astounded that it is in a plastic wrapper that does not even completely wrap it, so it cannot be argued that it is keeping it fresh. I am pretty sure that it is there simply for the supermarket’s convenience, so it can put a barcode on the wrapper. There are many examples where plastic is used not to keep the product fresh but for the supermarket’s convenience in transport and display. In those cases, a lot more could be done to reduce the amount of plastic packaging.

Another important factor is the change in British shopping habits. A few years ago, most of us would go to the supermarket once or perhaps twice a week and buy enough for several days, but according to many reports, two thirds of UK shoppers now visit the supermarket at least once a day. Many people shop daily, on their way home from work, to buy food for their meal that evening. Buying food that will stay in the house for several days and has to be kept fresh is no longer necessarily the key driver that it used to be for British supermarket shoppers.

I am greatly encouraged by the awareness and understanding of this issue among our young people. I often visit the local schools in my constituency and I am always pleasantly surprised by young pupils’ understanding of the issue of plastic waste, and the need to be responsible and to reduce the amount of it. That came through in the work that the House of Commons outreach and engagement team carried out in the lead-up to the debate. The team sought to engage with the public, particularly young people, to seek their views, and of the 1,000 students from 19 different schools that it contacted, 76% agreed that supermarkets should offer plastic-free options for fresh produce, and about half said that reducing plastic packaging was one of the biggest ways that we could reduce the amount of plastic waste. I thank all the students and schools who engaged in that process and helped us to gather those views. We appreciate their input.