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.

Alert me about debates like this

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

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that complexity is part of the challenge. Supermarkets can help by ensuring that as much as possible of the plastic packaging they use is recyclable, and that if it is not, it is clearly labelled accordingly. That would help households and consumers to make informed decisions. Consumers are key to the process. The Government can perhaps do more to reduce plastic waste from food packaging, but ultimately consumers will drive change by making informed choices and by making the responsible choice—whenever they are given a choice—of the option with the least amount of packaging, and of plastic-free packaging if possible.

Many supermarkets have sought to take action. I believe that much of that has been driven by consumer choice and by consumers’ desire to reduce the amount of plastic packaging, and we should welcome that. In September, Lidl announced that it would cease to use black plastic packaging on fruit and vegetable products by the end of that month. As we know, recycling black plastic is challenging. Morrisons, the fourth-largest UK supermarket chain, announced in April that it will bring back traditional brown paper bags for its fruit and veg aisle as part of a range of measures to cut plastic waste. I am sure many of us read the reports over the weekend that a north London supermarket is the first independent supermarket in the country to introduce plastic-free aisles, and is now calling on others to follow its lead. There are signs that retailers are starting to get the message that consumers want less plastic waste from their food packaging. I encourage all consumers who feel strongly about this matter to continue to drive home that message.

I believe that there is a role for the Government, but most of the change will come from the consumer. The introduction of the 5p charge for plastic bags shows that the Government can nudge people to make the right choices. We can use a combination of carrot and stick to drive good behaviour from retailers, with the threat of taxation if steps are not taken, but there are other measures that could be used. One idea I would like to explore is a reduction in business rates if retailers commit to reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging. That is just one way of encouraging the right behaviour from retailers.

We in Parliament clearly have an important role to play in setting an example. We have started to do that by taking steps towards a plastic-free Parliament and reducing the amount of single-use plastic in this place. It is important that parliamentarians continue to set an example and take a lead for the rest of the country to follow.