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Single-use Plastic Bottles

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 26 April 2018

1. What assessment he has made of the potential merits of alternatives to PET plastic for single-use plastic bottles. (904944)

PET is readily recycled, and has good infrastructure and end markets. PET bottles are universally collected. I commend companies such as Lucozade Ribena Suntory, which has switched its drinks bottles so that they are made of 100% recycled PET. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are working with industry to produce a UK bioeconomy strategy that will assess the potential merits of alternative materials, including bio-based plastics. I continue to encourage consumers to use refillable bottles and to take advantage of a growing network of water refill points.

My constituent Noel McGlinchey, who is a food scientist, has demonstrated to me how plant-based plastics such as polylactic acid might be used for plastic bottles, which would then be biodegradable. Do the Government have a view on the use of such plastics, and will the Minister support my campaign, together with Mr McGlinchey, to have them rolled out across the bottling sector?

I have already referred to our bioeconomy strategy, but I point out to the hon. Gentleman that research funded by the UK Government and the EU has not found conclusive evidence in support of claims that are often made in that regard. Those broad concerns are shared by the Waste and Resources Action Programme and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which tonight will launch the UK Plastics Pact. What matters is that we continue to invest in research innovation and try to take steps forward. Through such collaboration and industry partnership, we could make progress in that area.

Will the Minister wake up and talk to our European neighbours? Europe has always led on the environment, and until it got involved with plastics and recycling, we were still burying our waste in holes in the ground. What will we do when we leave the European Union with this environmental policy? No one on the Government Benches is even standing to ask a question about this.

We will have the opportunity to have an even better environment and to take direct action through more local initiatives. I commend the work that is being done across the European Union but, as I said to the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson), EU-funded research is not supportive of oxo-biodegradable plastics. As we make progress, we must be careful that we do not end up with knee-jerk reactions as we look for these important solutions. We need something that is long lasting.

Single-use plastic bottles can be 100% recyclable but, unfortunately, those that we use do not contain anywhere near 100% recyclable material. How can we influence behaviour in how we dispose of single-use plastic bottles to change that?

I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that most bottles are recyclable; the challenge is how to get more people to recycle them. He might be referring to schemes that the Government have said we will consult on later this year, including a deposit return scheme. One of our biggest challenges involves the littering of plastic, and that is what we want to tackle.