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Disposable Plastic Packaging

Volume 635: debated on Thursday 25 January 2018

In addition to the measures that I set out in my previous answers, our 25-year environment plan explores how we can better incentivise producers to design better products, including packaging. We are working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme charity and the industry to increase the amount of recyclable packaging on the market.

More than 200 Members signed my letter on what the supermarkets could do to improve their recycling so that they meet the targets that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) mentioned. Which supermarkets has the Secretary of State personally spoken to in order to bring them in line with Iceland, which is apparently the leader in this area?

That letter was excellent, if I may say so. I have talked to not only Iceland, but Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. We had a roundtable before Christmas at which those retailers and others made a shared commitment to ensure that we reduce the demand for plastic, that fewer plastics are used, and that those plastics that we have more of are recycled or recyclable. A commitment was also made to work with local government to make it easier for all to recycle.

Will the Secretary of State outline what steps he is taking to improve and increase the capacity of recycling facilities and infrastructure across the country?

We are looking at how we might reform the packaging recovery note—PRN—system to ensure that the market works better to encourage more recycling and more capacity in the waste industry.

When I was doing my family shopping at Asda in Wrexham last weekend, I noticed the appalling amount of plastic packaging on meat products, which seems to be in place for the ease of the supermarkets rather than that of their customers. Will the Secretary of State please raise the issue of packaging with the supermarkets?

I absolutely will, but while I have no wish to undermine Asda, which is an admirable retailer, I find that when buying meat, the best thing to do is to go to one’s local butcher, buy locally and invest in the local economy.

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Water UK on its initiative to encourage more places on our high streets to allow people to refill their water bottles, rather than buying water in disposable plastic containers?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Water UK’s initiative is wholly welcome. The idea of a nationwide network of refill stations is absolutely right. The decline of public water fountains marked a deeply regrettable trend, so I am glad that they are making a comeback.

Some 480 billion plastic bottles were sold globally in 2016. If we want to address one of the key issues, it has to be plastic bottles. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the companies to reduce the number of bottles or to have them reused—whatever the case may be?

We have discussed with industry bodies representing a variety of manufacturers and with retailers everything that we can do to reduce such use. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The world’s conscience has been awoken to the scourge of plastic in our oceans by the crusading work of documentary makers such as David Attenborough, and also by an increasing awareness of how important it is that we tread more lightly on our planet. The leadership that the hon. Gentleman has been showing in Northern Ireland is exemplary.