In Parliament today, Black Country MP John Spellar urged the Government to ‘get on and make some plans’ for dealing with the ‘unavoidable plastic waste’ created as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
He outlined that ‘the covid-19 crisis has clearly necessitated the use and disposal of massive quantities of disposable personal protective equipment, much of it plastic.’
Moreover, that ‘new mitigation measures for the catering and hospitality industry will generate another wave.’ While he accepted that this was ‘necessary to protect health and get Britain back to work,’ he called on the Government to have a plan do deal with the waste created.
DEFRA continues to monitor the impact of covid-19 on material flows. We have made no specific estimate of the impact of the outbreak on levels of plastic waste. However, we remain committed to eliminating the scourge of avoidable plastic waste by 2042, as demonstrated by our plans to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, which we discussed in this very Chamber just a week ago. We continue to monitor recycling rates for plastic packaging and we have committed to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers to incentivise people to recycle more plastic.
May I suggest that the Department actually needs to get on and make some plans for this? We are talking about not avoidable but unavoidable plastic waste, because the covid-19 crisis has clearly necessitated the use and disposal of massive quantities of disposable personal protective equipment, much of it plastic, and new mitigation measures for the catering and hospitality industry will generate another wave. We all accept that this is necessary to protect health and get Britain back to work, but what is the Department going to do now to deal with this volume of waste, much of it plastic?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman, who raises some good points. This Government are absolutely committed to getting rid of plastic waste, as our resources and waste strategy shows, and as measures in the Environment Bill will demonstrate by bringing forward the deposit return scheme and extended producer responsibility. We need to get all businesses to think about what happens to the plastic products they make at the beginning and where they end up, with a view to greatly reduced quantities going to landfill. He raises a good point about PPE. Many companies are rethinking all this, and lots are now starting to have reusable face coverings and to make their own. There is a very useful guide to that on the Government website.