Plastic Waste

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:50 pm on 8th September 2021.

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Photo of Tahir Ali Tahir Ali Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green 4:50 pm, 8th September 2021

I am grateful to Elliot Colburn for securing the debate. I have received many letters and emails from constituents of different ages—both young and old—who want to see urgent action taken to reduce waste, which is a serious threat not only to animal and marine life but to us and our environment. The children of Chilcote Primary School in my constituency wrote to me during the lockdown, and the message is absolutely clear: take action now and save the planet. I am in the process of going round to schools and doing that.

The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington said that the first issue he spoke on in the council was the environment. When I first became a councillor in 1999 in Birmingham, there was a councillor who used to speak on environmental issues, and people used to laugh at him. Twenty-two years on, we are still talking about recycling and the action that is needed. If we are to take this seriously, we must bring forward the actions that are needed to save the planet and the children of Chilcote Primary School, and all other schools in my constituency and across the country, because it is about their future. We will then hand over to them the baton and they will look after the planet in the way that they want for future generations. We do not want those children to be in this position 20 years on, still talking about it and debating the action that needs to be taken.

Microplastic pollution is a risk to animals and humans alike, and it is now abundantly clear that radical action needs to be taken. The Government maintain that the UK is a world leader in tackling plastic pollution, yet progress remains painfully slow. The UK is still one of the largest producers of plastic waste in the world. Much of it is exported abroad, but that does not diminish our responsibility. It would be a nimby approach—not in my back yard—to say, “Let’s offload it to someone else.”

Not so long ago, I saw a documentary about the slums in India—the name of the biggest slum escapes my mind. It was amazing to see not only how they recycled every element of an object that could be recycled, from plastics, Coke bottles and whatever else, and turned them into goods that could be resold, but the way that community came together. If that can happen in a slum in a third-world country, as a developed nation we need not only to learn lessons but to set the standards to make progress on this important issue. Once again, I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing this important debate.