Plastics Recycling

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:04 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West 7:04 pm, 23rd April 2019

I will be brief, Mr Hosie. We know that Extinction Rebellion are protesting outside, and I completely condone that. We know that by 2050 there will be as much plastic as fish in the sea. We know the fossil fuel manufacturers are given near trillion-dollar subsidies, and to a certain extent are diverting that money into plastic, because 80% of fossil fuels cannot be exploited. We know the only way to reduce the consumption of plastic is to raise its price. The way to do that is to tax plastic and to have cleaner, more homogenous plastic, which is more cost-effective to recycle.

The Government have paid lip service to a plastics tax—I welcome the comments from Sir Vince Cable—but they will not bring it in until 2022. We need to be robust, assertive and immediate. On the timeframe for universal recyclability of plastic, we are looking at 2042, and in Europe, it is 2030. It should be 2025.

The producer responsibility obligations system is not working. I would welcome a deposit scheme. We clearly need taxes on bottles, and refill schemes in local shops, so that people can refill their bottle. People ask, “What can I do?” and throw away the bottles because they are so cheap. If we taxed them, we would be in a better situation.

There is emerging technology, such as gasification, that enables plastics to be broken down to produce energy in a way that does not impact on climate change. We should be investing in research and development. We should be putting more pressure on supermarkets. I completely agree with my hon. Friend Mr Sheerman, who says that people should be encouraged to take their plastic and dump it back on the supermarkets. They would respond. It is all very well people being apologists for the supermarkets and saying that they are doing as much as they can; they pretend to do more than they do. They need to do much more. We cannot continue to export all our plastics, and sweep the problem under the table. We need to take action immediately.

By the time we have the tax that is proposed by the Government, an extra 70,000 tonnes of plastic will have been deposited. That is why I tabled my Plastics Bill, which would set out a fiscal strategy, and introduce a plastics agency and a global target for the overall amount of plastic, in which Britain’s amount reduced over time. It would also give our nations an imperative to make sure that target was delivered.