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

I thank my hon. Friend for that point. Absolutely—if we cannot see movement on the problem of plastics, we must move plastics to the places where they will make others move. I trust that we will take another step forward on the issue as a result of today’s debate.

The plastics strategy must set tough targets for producers and manufacturers to provide alternatives. Research is under way, as I found out recently when I met Nestlé, a major manufacturer in York. I also spoke to local businesses, and it is clear that they are frustrated too. We have heard the Government trying to bring redress item by item—whether on bags, bottles or straws—but the reality is that we need to get to the top of the supply chain and look at what is happening.

In York, the council has really failed the people of my city. Plastics, apart from bottles, are not picked up at the kerbside, and therefore end up in landfill. This weekend, as I was doing my plastic walkabout, I was horrified to learn that much of York’s recyclable waste ends up in landfill, not even going where residents believe it is going. That is not good enough. Unless the Minister sets really tough targets in her plastics strategy, it is clear that the Government will have failed. Labour in York has pledged to put in a water fountain system so that people can refill their bottles in the city and turn around the council’s current abject failure to take the matter seriously.

I was impressed when I visited York’s Biorenewables Development Centre, which uses high-pressure steam and autoclaving to separate household waste, drawing out plastics from other waste to be able to deal with them. I was also impressed by nine-year-old Mollie Nicholl, who came to my surgery to teach me about ecobricks. She brought her empty plastic bottles, plastic wrappers and a wooden spoon, and showed me how to fill the bottle with the wrappers and then screw on the top, making an ecobrick, which would then be collected and made into either garden furniture or play equipment—new plastic capturing. She is York’s plastic eco warrior.

York’s climate strikers are incensed by plastic around them, as I found out when I met them recently. We owe it to all in our communities to take action, so I have five things I want to ask the Minister. Will she expand the role of the Grocery Code Adjudicator to take on the policing of cutting carbon and plastic from production and manufacturing in the supply chain? That seems an appropriate place do to it. Will she set stringent plastic targets, so that organic-based packaging rather than polymers are at the forefront, and polymers are phased out by 2025? Will the UK contribute to the plastic clear-up operations in the oceans, which we know has begun here at home? Will she champion ecobricks, as Mollie in my constituency has, and other forms of reuse for plastic, during the transition phase? Finally, will she set tough targets on recycling for local authorities and support them in driving change?

Our planet is breaking under the consumption-obsessed society we live in. As we have been elected to this place, we have been given a platform to radically change our world. Will the Minister use her power, as Labour will, to transform the local, national and global conversation and action, by being drastic on plastic?