I have campaigned for many years on environmental issues, including the damaging effect of plastic pollution. I have consistently raised the issue of plastic in and out of Parliament. Plastic pollution is unquestionably one of today’s great environmental scourges.
In January 2018, the Government pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042, but this is far too late, and the government is failing even on that. We should stop all single use plastics much earlier, such as a 50% reduction by 2025.
Sadly, the Government has delayed the introduction of policies to combat plastic pollution until at least 2022; by that time up to 700,000 tons of plastic will have been thrown away. It is a scandal that our plastic waste has been shipped abroad where it has just ended up being dumped; so, the UK must stop sending plastic waste overseas.
But even stopping single use plastics and plastic waste is not the end of the problem. There is another extremely worrying situation, that of plastic fishing nets. It is estimated that discarded fishing nets in our oceans comprise at least 45% of all plastic waste. And it is sitting there in the sea, gradually breaking down into micro-plastics which are entering the oceanic food chain.
This means that we are literally eating plastic whenever we eat seafood. Those nets will not get retrieved or recycled; therefore, we have to address this as an emergency just as we need to stop single use plastics.
In 2019 I signed Greenpeace’s ‘Plastics Pledge’, and I will reaffirm that pledge again.
I will continue to speak out and challenge the government on its plans to reduce plastic pollution.