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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:03 pm on 12th November 2018.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 5:03 pm, 12th November 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. My hon. Friend Steve Double and Tulip Siddiq set out clearly the environmental aspects of the issue. I will not repeat what they said, but I acknowledge the enormous impact that plastic has on our environment.

We had a bit of a tour of people’s favourite fruit and vegetables—my hon. Friend mentioned the cauliflower and the hon. Lady mentioned the avocado. Let me add the cucumber to the list. My biggest bugbear with the cucumber is the plastic it is wrapped in. I do not know where my hon. Friend got his figure that most plastic lasts only minutes. It takes me minutes to get the plastic off the cucumber, let alone to dispose of it. I often end up having to extract bits of plastic from the salad I make with the cucumber because I was not able to get it all off.

The difficulty is that plastic plays an important part in the life of the cucumber. Without plastic the cucumber would probably last for a maximum of three days—that is the time it would take the water in it to evaporate—whereas with plastic it can last up to 14 days. I repeat what I said in an intervention on my hon. Friend: we need much more research and innovation to replace the sorts of plastics we currently use with new forms of covering that keep some of the characteristics of those plastics.

That leads to a number of other questions, including about the quantity of food we buy and the fact that there is little seasonality in the market. We can go out and buy anything the whole year round.