Working to protect the natural environment

A trip to the supermarket can highlight how far environmental policy has come in just a few years.

Gone are the days of a seemingly infinite number of plastic bags on the counter to pack the weekly shop into.

Since the 5 pence charge for a plastic bag was introduced less than two years ago, more than 9 billion fewer plastic bags have been used. This represents an 83 per cent reduction which is already benefiting our environment.

To try and put this in context – this number of bags would be enough to wrap around the world more than 100 times! Money raised from the charge has generated £95 million for local good causes.

There is of course more to be done. Legislation to help councils tackle littering from vehicles is also to be put forward, and the Government will publish their response to a consultation on increasing the fixed penalty fine for littering.

Last year in the House of Commons I called on the Prime Minister to ensure the UK continues to lead the world on environmental policy and take action to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing tiny pieces of plastic, known as microbeads.

I was delighted that last month, the Environment Secretary confirmed that legislation will be introduced later this year to ban the sale and manufacture of microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products such as toothpastes and shower gels.

Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year – a serious threat to our natural and marine environment. It is estimated that plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds.

While some retailers and manufacturers are already taking action to phase out microbeads, legislation which will be brought forward later this year will make sure that in future they have no place in products, such as face scrubs, that end up going down the drain.

Henry Smith MP