Looking after the environment

We can all play a part in reducing plastic waste to help the environment. From using a reusable ‘bag for life’ at the supermarket, to avoiding products which come wrapped in excessive packaging, everyone can help to make a difference – from supplier, to retailer and customer.

To date, we’ve used nine billion fewer plastic bags as a direct consequence of the introduction of the 5 pence carrier bag charge. To make further improvements, this will be extended to all shops in England.

An increase in water refilling points in public places and areas where large numbers of people are likely to assemble will also help. I recently raised in the House of Commons the issue of airports providing such facilities. I’ve received assurances from Gatwick regarding the water fountains they have after security for passengers, and the wider approaches they are taking to be the UK’s most sustainable airport.

An estimated 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, and research indicates that if urgent action is not taken to cut demand, it’s likely to soar to 34 billion tonnes by 2050.

As part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, new funding will be invested in plastics innovation through a bid to the UK’s £7 billion research and development pot.

During the Great British Beach Clean Up, the Marine Conservation Society found 718 pieces of litter for every 100 yard stretch of beach surveyed. Rubbish from food and drink made up at least one fifth of this waste.

In 2016 in Parliament I urged the Prime Minister to take action on the additional matter of microbeads, tiny pieces of plastic included in products such as shower gels and face scrubs, which cause tremendous damage to our marine environment.

Earlier this year, a ban on the manufacture of products containing these microbeads come into force. As a result of UK action, manufacturers of cosmetics and personal care items will no longer be able to add these pieces of plastic to ‘rinse-off’ products.

Last week Lent began – this year I’ve decided to give up disposable plastic, like cups, sandwich packets and bottles and will do my best beyond Easter!

Henry Smith MP