• Looking after the Environment

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    13 April 2018

    There are many campaigns that I have pursued over many years. Some bear early fruit. Around a decade ago I got the then managing director of Stagecoach to drive just the two of us in a bus around a key route in Crediton – yes he actually held a bus driver’s licence! My stopwatch in hand I proved to him that the extra part of the route could just be covered within the time constraints of his integrated timetable. That a much needed service could be reinstated – it was promptly brought back and still runs to this day. Other efforts take longer – like my on-going campaign to see a regular rail service between Okehampton and Exeter. Years of lobbying is moving this forward with the Secretary of State for Transport now requiring GWR to bring forward plans for this ‘as soon as practicably possible’. A couple of weeks ago I met up with GWR for another review and everything is moving forward – in time we will get our new rail service. Anyhow, I digress, what I wanted to focus on this week is another area where I have pressed hard – clamping down on single use plastics. The latest breakthrough just announced by DEFRA is that the government will be bringing forward a drinks container deposit scheme (covering glass, plastic and metal) – the basic idea is that a deposit is paid on the item and can be reclaimed when it is returned for recycling. This will be particularly important in reducing the amount of one time use plastic that clutters up our townscapes and swirls around our oceans contaminating marine life, sometimes coming back to us as plastic ingested by the fish we eat. Last year I lobbied the Secretary of State on this when he joined me in meeting our farmers in Chagford. And in August last year I joined Councillor Kevin Lake (responsible for Environment Services on Teignbridge Council) in supporting his work in pressing for supermarkets to introduce just such a scheme. It is the work by local campaigners like Kevin who collectively keep up the pressure to make things happen. A staggering 13 billion plastic bottles are sold in the UK every year and only 43% are recycled - 700,000 are littered every day. Government interventions do work – we have already acted to ban plastic micro beads (typically used in scrubs and toothpastes) and which are easily ingested by marine life and the implementation of a 5p charge on plastic bags has reduced their use by 80%. The government is now consulting on the best way to proceed with the bottle deposit scheme and I am looking forward to this being rolled out. It is great news for the environment or as Bill Bryson, author and former Campaign for the Protection of Rural England President, said: “I wholeheartedly congratulate Michael Gove for his wisdom in finally accepting the case for a deposit return system in the UK.” Mel on Twitter @MelJStride