Thursday, 24 May 2018

Plastic

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet opened people’s eyes to the damage that plastic is doing to our oceans and marine environment catapulted the issue up the agenda, locally and nationally.
 
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of welcoming pupils from Portreath School to parliament. They addressed a parliamentary committee on the work they have done to tackle the scourge of plastic waste in our oceans. They have persuaded suppliers to change from plastic to cardboard packaging, their milk now arrives in glass bottles, and they help with beach cleans at Portreath. I also received letters from a number of students at Mount Hawke Academy, all of whom are campaigning for Parliament to do more to tackle the problem. Last week, I responded to a debate about plastic bottles and coffee cups in the House of Commons on behalf of the Government. I was pleased to be able to pay tribute to the work done by these local children to make sure that more is being done to look after our environment.
 
Cornwall is also home to Surfers Against Sewage, which has done great work in campaigning nationally against marine pollution. It has been at the forefront of a campaign to reduce the use of plastics on the parliamentary estate. That campaign has been a success, and parliamentary authorities have announced a series of steps to reduce plastic waste.
 
Plastic has always been a particular concern; it takes hundreds of years to break down and has been the subject of high profile debate recently.  The problem is compounded year after year as new plastics find their way into the oceans while those that have already been there for decades remain and break down into smaller particles.  
 
The government has pledged to crack down on plastics by eliminating all avoidable plastic waste through extending the 5p plastic bag charge to small retailers, removing consumer single use plastics from the government estate, supporting the water industry to significantly increase water fountains and working with retailers on introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles.

The result of the 5p plastic bag charge introduced two years ago has been amazing with a drop in carrier bag use of about 80 percent.  We have also banned microbeads in cosmetics. Microbeads are tiny plastic particles used to give a gritty texture to some soaps but which sewage systems are incapable of filtering so they end up in the sea.   
 
A recent call for evidence is clear that we will consider a levy on disposable cups. We also have consultations coming up on banning plastic straws, plastic stirrers and cotton buds, and on introducing a deposit return scheme.
 
Our successes show us that we can all make a difference if we act. I could not be more proud of the leading role that Cornwall is taking in tackling plastic, and helping ensure that the UK is a world leader in environmental protection.

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