Plastics Recycling

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:57 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 6:57 pm, 23rd April 2019

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Hosie. I congratulate Sir Vince Cable on securing this timely debate—it is just a shame that so few hon. Members are present.

The plastics debate has been illuminated to us recently in the media, not least by Sir David Attenborough, and having Greta Thunberg among us in Parliament today has brought it very much to the fore. The reality is that plastic production and use continue to rise across the UK; according to the statistics I have, it rises by about 4% each year, but we know that the data need to be more reliable. Of course, we also send much of our waste—the things we do not want to deal with—overseas for others to deal with, which is clearly not acceptable.

This year, I took part in the Tearfund plastic challenge for Lent, which brought plastic into sharp focus for me. I thought that not purchasing any plastic for 40 days and 40 nights was a good idea when I signed up, but the plastic fast hit me on my first trip to the supermarket: everywhere I turned, plastic stared back at me. I was incensed. Had I been blind to the scale of the plastic virus until now? Having previously been frustrated by how much plastic I had seen, I was now angry. As a consumer, I was given no choice but to walk out of the supermarket and rethink my life. Try it—I recommend it.

My first respite was York’s Shambles Market. Here I could buy fruit and veg and put them straight into my cloth bag for life. Other outlets in York, such as Alligator and Bishy Weigh, where customers fill their recycled pots with grains and groceries, provide an alternative to the plastic wrapping used by all the supermarkets.

My diet has changed—for the better, I have to say; it is now plant based. I bake my own bread and make my own coleslaw, but I have gone without some products as a result of wanting to source them plastic-free. Dairy is hard to source, and there are others. As a consumer, my choices were removed. If I have experienced that, people across the country are experiencing it today and there is therefore an obligation on us all to address the plastic challenge.