Labour Party MPs join in the fight against plastic in Bristol east and west






BRISTOL - East and West, Bristol MPs Kerry McCarthy and Thangam Debbonaire have joined forces in the hope of turning the tide on plastic ocean pollution.





Today, Thangam Debbonaire and I are launching a new Facebook page to feed back on the work we’re doing in Parliament on marine plastic pollution and to share new developments and initiatives on this nationally, locally and internationally. We would really like to hear your thoughts and feedback on what measures could be taken to improve our marine environment and reduce plastic litter.

The launch coincides with the premiere tonight of the award-winning documentary, A Plastic Ocean, at Bristol Aquarium, that shows the devastating impact of plastic pollution on marine life. I’ve managed to get tickets for a second showing on Friday night. 

We have both been campaigning on this for some time, and decided to set up the Facebook page after meeting with Bristol-based environmental organisation, City to Sea, and Bristol Friends of the Earth, about their work to phase out single-use plastic in Bristol, and to make it a plastic-free city. City to Sea was set up in 2014 after its founder saw huge amounts of plastics flowing from the Avon into the Bristol Channel. Its aim is to reduce the amount of litter and plastics in our city, and it is working on some great initiatives, from organising local riverbank clean-ups and corporate volunteering, to working with retailers to increase water refill points across Bristol and their very successful recent campaign to persuade retailers to switch from selling plastic to paper cotton buds.

This an environmental issue which urgently needs addressing.

Plastic is a durable material made to last forever, but far too much of it is used once and then thrown away. The value of the plastic we throw away globally is worth a staggering $80-120billion.

Currently, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation just 5 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled (14% of it is collected for recycling, but only 5% is retained for subsequent use), while 40 per cent is sent to landfill and around 14% is sent for incineration/energy recovery. A staggering third is never collected and ends up clogging up our sewers and polluting our ecosystems, where it can stay around for literally hundreds of years and is impossible to remove. About eight million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year – roughly the equivalent of five bin bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world. Unable to biodegrade, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.

The huge growth in plastics production means that there could be more waste plastic in the sea than fish.

This is causing real harm to marine life and ecosystems. Plastic entanglement or ingestion can cause chocking, intestinal blockages and starvation. One recent study showed that 90 per cent of birds have plastic in their stomachs. documented the case of a California grey whale which had washed up dead; autopsies indicated that its stomach contained a pair of pants and a golf ball, more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, duct tape and surgical gloves.




PASSIONATE - Kerry McCarthy is a British Labour Party politician with strong beliefs who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bristol East since 2005 and was the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from September 2015 to June 2016.

She qualified as a solicitor in 1994 and worked as a lawyer for Abbey National Treasury Services (1994–1996), Merrill Lynch Europe (1996–1999) and the Labour Party (2001). She was a director of London Luton Airport Ltd (1999–2003), a director at Britain in Europe (2002–2004), and Head of Public Policy at the Waterfront Partnership (2004–2005).

In September 2011, McCarthy was made Shadow Foreign Office Minister with a responsibility for human rights. She is believed to be the first MP to deliver a speech in Parliament with the aid of an iPad. On World Vegan Day in November 2011, McCarthy became the first MP to set out in Parliament the case for becoming vegan.



There is also evidence that plastics attract toxins and pollutants in the marine environment. Having accumulated in marine life, there are real concerns that plastics and toxins pass up the food chain and onto people’s dinner plates.

There is a great deal more we can all do to reduce this plastic litter, as consumers, as producers, at a local to a national level.

Prevention is better than cure. The best way of stopping this litter from reaching our rivers and sea is at source – by reducing the amount of this waste that is generated in the first place. As much as possible, we need to stop using single-use plastic – from refusing drinking straws, to bringing our own bags to the shops.

Where we can’t reuse or refuse, we need to recycle. Indeed, we need to rethink the way we manage resources more generally, to create a more circular economy. Some progress is being made on tackling plastic waste - for example, the plastic bag charge – but we need to transform how plastics travel through our economy. We are concerned that currently there are too few incentives for or requirements on producers to make their packaging recyclable, and for keeping plastic in the system after-use, leaving local councils and the taxpayer to clear up the mess.

At a national level, we need a strategy for unlocking the economic opportunities that would come from greater resource efficiency, as well as for meeting our EU recycling targets. A circular economy which reuses, recycles and remanufactures resources is not only an environmental necessity, but a real opportunity for innovation and growth. We also need policies to phase out products which cannot be recycled or reused, which cause environmental pollution, and which are not necessary, such as the urgent need to ban microbeads in cosmetic products.

The aim of this new Facebook page is to provide a forum for what role we can all play in making a difference – as individuals and communities, from personal choices to policy decisions. More broadly and ambitiously, we hope we can work together with you to help drive action in Bristol and beyond. 




WEAK QUEEN'S SPEECH - We see The Queen’s Speech, with all its pomp and circumstance, is the government’s first official opportunity to set out its legislative programme for the parliament.

We could have assumed that Theresa May was overflowing with ideas for the next year or more of Parliament, given that she proposes to cancel next year’s Queen’s Speech, and that she called a General Election two months ago! In reality, however, the Tories’ Queen’s Speech was utterly threadbare, devoid of ideas, and notable more for what was missing than what was being proposed.

I’m delighted that Theresa May’s threats to reinstate grammar schools, to repeal the ban on fox hunting, to take away Winter Fuel Payments – all keystones of the Tory manifesto - were all absent from the Queen’s Speech. Labour opposed all these proposals vigorously in our election campaign and the voters of Bristol West showed that they agreed with us. Less welcome absences, however, are the gaps on funding for schools and the NHS, the strain on our social care system (mentioned, but only just) and a continuing lack of plan for Brexit. Our schools and our health services are in crisis now; they’ve been struggling for years. Staff are taking the strain so pupils and patients don’t have to, but colleagues in the health service and in schools tell me serious problems are right in front of us. Some Bristol West schools are facing the prospect of cutting vital help with core subjects which help all children to thrive. And what was there in the speech did not amount to an awful lot.

An announcement to ban unfair letting agency fees - a Labour policy from the 2015 manifesto but one which they had already announced their support for before the general election! A nebulous Great Repeal Bill which aims to write all EU rights and protections into UK law, but which doesn’t include any commitment to make sure UK workers’ rights, environmental protections or consumer rights keep pace with the EU. And a promise to improve provision for mental health in the NHS – a promise that rings hollow when there are now over 6,000 fewer mental health nurses than there were in 2010, even after they promised the same thing in their 2015 manifesto!

Theresa May’s reckless decision to waste time with a general election immediately after setting the clock racing on our negotiations with the European Union has backfired. She has gone from talking about strength and stability, to being unable to put together a proper programme for government.

Labour stand ready to put forward a Queen’s Speech which addresses the big challenges facing Britain. Jeremy Corbyn’s Queen’s Speech would propose a real living wage of £10 an hour by 2020. It would establish a National Education Service which would cut class sizes below 30 for all 5, 6, and 7 year olds. It would halt the current restructuring of the NHS under the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) and work out a proper funding deal. And it would pledge to take real action to tackle our housing crisis by building at least 100,000 genuinely affordable homes by the end of the parliament.

Labour stands ready to form a government, to undo the damage of seven years of unnecessary austerity, and to work to create a fairer, more equal society. By contrast, Theresa May has scrabbled unsuccessfully to put together a government. The weak and wobbly Queen’s Speech she put forward today showed just how few ideas the Tories have. And, as she looks around the House of Commons in the days and weeks to come, she may come to realise just how few friends she has as she attempts to deliver even this threadbare programme.




Kerry McCarthy MP
House of Commons

Phone: 0117 939 9901 (Lines are open from Monday - Friday 10am - 1pm)


Thangam Debbonaire MP
House of Commons



Phone: 0117 3790980 during office hours. 












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