Plastics Recycling

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:29 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Leader of the Liberal Democrats 6:29 pm, 23rd April 2019

The hon. Gentleman is right. I do not think that the Government are necessarily being disingenuous; it just happens to be that the way that recycling is treated has not traditionally distinguished between domestic processing and export. I hope that the Minister will explain how the Government are trying to redress that.

This is a relatively short debate, so I want to give others an opportunity to speak. My final point relates to how we deal with end-use consumption. Two of the Government’s consultations are about that, but I think it is useful for Members to express a view at this stage. One obvious area is the plastic bag experience. We had a massive impact—an 88% reduction in demand—as a result of quite a modest 5p charge on bags. However, at the moment it is restricted to firms with more than 250 employees. I understand the reasoning; the Government do not want to expand the regulation to single-handed shopkeepers. However, there is surely a number in between—say five employees and above—that would be much more realistic and have a significant impact.

The second potential action, which the Government again are consulting on, is introducing deposits for bottles. One of the reasons the German experience in this area is so much better than the British experience is that the Germans have, in effect, a 20p tax on plastic bottles, which can be refunded, giving people a strong incentive to reuse as well as recycle.