I warmly welcomed the news this week that the Environment Secretary Michael Gove is planning a robust set of measures to dramatically cut plastic pollution.
I feel passionately about this issue, and earlier this year I called in Parliament for action on the plastic plague of microbeads, which is damaging marine life.
Now, following the impact of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II TV series there is a growing public clamour for action.
Every year several million more tonnes of plastic ends up in the seas. It’s killing wildlife, poisoning whales, dolphins and turtles. It’s also ending up in our food. Scientists at Ghent University recently calculated that people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year.
The problem is getting worse. A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number is predicted to jump another 20% by 2021. This Christmas morning, studies estimate that over 110,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be discarded in the UK alone. 200 tonnes of that will come from Cheltenham.
We should be cutting disposable plastic at source, while also making it easier for people to recycle. There has already been significant success. The carrier-bag charge has taken 9 billion plastic bags out of circulation. Now we need to crack down on single-use plastics such as straws and coffee cups.
The Government has already started consulting with drinks firms on bringing in a deposit scheme to cut the number of plastic bottles that are finding their way into rivers and oceans. I’m also supporting plans to move councils towards a standardised recycling policy. The current inconsistency is thoroughly confusing.
And finally, a very happy Christmas to all. At this time of year we thank those who will be doing the night shifts and anti-social hours to keep us safe and secure. From the hospital staff at CGH to those manning the desks at GCHQ, we owe you all an enormous debt of gratitude. Thank you.