Plastics Recycling

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:50 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Bill Grant Bill Grant Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock 6:50 pm, 23rd April 2019

Like the hon. Gentleman, I am not sure which Scottish university is doing that research, but I think it may be Edinburgh. Although it has not been proven, that is an innovative idea for recovering what we have polluted our oceans with, and I certainly hope that the researchers make progress with it. I wish them well and hope that the UK Government or the Scottish Government will encourage such research, because we really need it to work and materialise.

Regrettably, I understand that a vortex also exists in the north Atlantic. Such vortexes of waste are a shame on our society and on western society, because we are responsible for that pollution. Like the hon. Member for Huddersfield, I hope we can find a way to remove it, because it is a threat to marine life and to the humans who ply and fish the waters affected.

We need to seriously address our throwaway approach to life and our frequently irrational desire to cosset our purchases in excessive packaging that may not be entirely recyclable if it is composed of polymers, particularly given how much plastic waste we produce here in the United Kingdom. Even going by the middle figure, we produce a phenomenal amount: approximately 3.7 million tonnes annually. Nevertheless, by signing up in December 2017 to the UN resolution on marine litter and microplastics, the UK Government have taken a step, albeit a small one, in the correct direction, with the aim of further combating marine litter. I also applaud the Scottish Government for publishing a strategy and a plan to address marine litter.

It is worthy of note that retailers in the United Kingdom —I nearly said “Every little helps”—are attempting to do their bit for the environment. I understand that Waitrose has pledged to stop using black plastic trays by the end of this year. That is to be welcomed, as is the fact that other retailers have indicated that they will follow suit, thereby reducing the volume of such material that, regrettably, ends up in landfill.

In looking forward, we must reflect on past generations, who rarely bought pre-packaged goods. They coped with a minimalist approach, often relying on greaseproof paper or paper bags to take home the essentials; I am sure that in those days the paper would have ended up as fuel for the home fire. Similarly, the “make do and mend” ethos that was applied to natural fabrics in bygone eras needs to be applied again, where possible, and we need to consider carefully our constant use of synthetic textiles with the potential to shed polluting microfibres.

I note that the UK Government are hopeful that their resources and waste strategy will lead to significant improvements, including by ending confusion over recycling. We have to make recycling simpler; I note that the Ayrshire councils make a great effort to provide receptacles, but as a nation we do not seem able to select the correct one.