The UK government must do more to stop plastics polluting our marine environment and entering the food chain.
That is the message of Neale Hanvey MP who has joined fellow parliamentarians, experts, and public figures in a campaign against plastic waste. The campaigners are seeking to put pressure on the UK government to include a global plastics treaty on the agenda at the G7 Summit meeting in June.
The Fife MP and his fellow signatories argue that “a globally aligned approach to tackling the plastic crisis is critical for the health of people and planet” and that the G7 is well-placed to lead efforts aimed at “tackling the scourge of plastic pollution”.
This comes as Mr Hanvey has been leading calls for UK ministers to follow the example of their French counterparts in requiring all new washing machines to be fitted with microfilters. In a written parliamentary question, Mr Hanvey explained that this would “help prevent synthetic microfibres from entering rivers and oceans”.
UK ministers remain resistant to the move and have instead pledged to continue “working with industry to encourage improved environmental outcomes”.
Commenting, Neale said:
“We produce 300 million tonnes of plastic every year and only around 10 percent of that gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfill or, even worse, in our rivers, seas and ultimately in our food chain.
“And while we can all play a part in reducing the amount of plastic we use, that will never be enough on its own. We need strong, interventionist environmental policies, and we need the whole world on board.
“That’s why I’ve joined the campaign for a global plastics treaty. It’s also why I’m pushing the UK government to make microfilters mandatory in all new washing machines.
“But I’m hitting a brick wall with UK ministers who seem more interested in placating big business than seriously tackling environmental issues like plastic waste.”
In the year that COP26 will be held in Glasgow, Neale has vowed to keep up the pressure on the UK government to take “meaningful action” to address plastic waste, and to also explore other avenues to address the issue.
One approach could be for the Scottish Government to legislate on plastic waste. While most consumer powers remain reserved to Westminster, the Fife MP believes that should not preclude the Scottish Government from seizing the initiative.
“Clearly the Scottish Government has led the way on environmental issues across these islands, with ambitious and radical policies to address the climate emergency.
“I accept that a policy like mandatory microfilters in washing machines would be
impossible to impose with the current devolved powers, but there may be other ways to address the scourge of plastics on our marine environments that are within the competency of Holyrood.
“This is yet again an example of an area where I am sure the Scottish Government would be keen to act, but ministers are hamstrung by the necessary powers being held by the UK government.
“My message to ministers in London will be clear – if you are unwilling to act to address plastic waste, then devolve the powers to the Scottish Parliament.”