Plastic Waste

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:18 pm on 8th September 2021.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:18 pm, 8th September 2021

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. I heard what he said in his speech. All issues are being discussed. It is not something that we are particularly focusing on right now.

The export of plastics was touched on by Tahir Ali and by the shadow Minister. We have committed to banning the export of waste to non-OECD countries, and we are working with other global partners to implement our obligations under the Basel convention and the OECD decision on waste. We have a robust system, run by the Environment Agency, for compliance and tackling any illegal exports of plastic. It is doing increasingly focused work on that. At a national level, I am sure the shadow Minister will be pleased to hear that we are committed to tackling waste crime, mandatory electronic waste tracking and the overhauling and improving of the carrier, broker and dealer regime. We are moving on with that very shortly. This was mentioned in the Environment Bill as well, as she knows. Our comprehensive electronic waste tracking system will help regulators to identify illegal and non-compliant activity.

What next? Many councils are already doing great work on recycling. We are determined to learn more, and to ensure that every household can recycle easily, as my hon. Friend Andrew Selous mentioned. We have myriad different systems, but clarity will be key, as well as guidance, because the Environment Bill requires a core set of materials to be collected by every council, to make recycling easier across the board.

We will seek powers under the Bill to introduce the deposit return scheme that so many hon. Members mentioned. It would apply to drinks containers of multiple materials—not just plastic—including packed plastic bottles. That has been very successful in other countries, as we have heard. We have consulted on the all-in-one and on-the-go systems, and we are analysing all that information.

On the digital DRS system, we have a lot of trials running on technology, because we have to harness that. There could be real opportunities there for systems in busy places such as transport hubs—railway stations and so forth—as well as shops. I know Scotland has been working away on the deposit return scheme. I think it has already been delayed and a review is under way, so we will watch how Scotland proceeds with interest. We have the extended producer responsibility scheme, introduced under the Environment Bill. That has a special focus on plastic packaging, because it is the most littered item. We will ensure that companies that place plastic packaging on the market will cover the costs of disposal, rather than passing it on to the taxpayer, which is what happens at the moment.

In addition, from April next year, the plastic packaging tax will impose a charge of £200 a tonne on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content. It is estimated that that will lead to 40% more recycled plastic used in packaging by 2022-23, which will cut carbon emissions by 200,000 tonnes. I think all hon. Members and friends will agree that that will be significant; it will make a big difference to our moving in the right direction, and it will happen very shortly.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington mentioned incineration. In October 2020, we legislated to include a permit condition for landfill and incineration operators, which means that they cannot accept separately collected paper, metal, glass or plastic for landfill or incineration unless it has gone through some form of treatment process first and that is the best environmental outcome.

I hope this demonstrates how many measures are under way and will be coming forward shortly to help us to reach all those targets and to tackle this issue, which I think we all agree is a scourge. We must do something about it, but we genuinely are moving at great speed in the right direction.