Councillor Tony Richardson’s speech on reducing single use plastics

Our motion tonight is to task the council with how it can be more pro-active on minimising the use of non-recyclable or “single-use” plastics in York.

These are the plastics that are used once and thrown away and they’re everywhere- bags, coffee stirrers, water bottles and food packaging, it’s a long list of items that have become part of our lives and which we don’t often think about- until they wash down our rivers, blow down our street or end up at the beach.

We produce about 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of it is disposable.  It’s petroleum based, so not easily biodegradable, and when it does break down it breaks down into tiny particles after many years, releasing toxic chemicals which get into our food and water supply.

These plastics are a major source of marine litter, as has been pointed out in the Green’s amendment.  They burden our landfills, if they get there.  They also represent a huge loss of wasted energy and material value to the economy- somewhere around £64 to 97 billion pounds of material value is lost each year through the use of plastic packaging.

So we know it’s a big problem, the question is what to do about it.  Our administration already looks carefully at integrating sustainable practices into the council’s day-to-day operations through the One Planet York programme and other measures.  But following the Chancellor’s budget statement last month, where he pledged the Government will consult on how to limit the use of single use plastics, we decided that it’s timely for us here in York to address this issue locally.

The first step is to ask the relevant scrutiny committee- we will defer to the advice of Democratic Services as to which- to take a look at the council’s use of single use plastics within its facilities as part of its procurement programme and what scope we have to minimise their use. For example, is it feasible to ban the purchase of single use plastics within all CYC buildings? We don’t know. 

But we would also like the council to look at how we, and our partners, could influence the behaviour of residents and businesses.  This is the “nudge” factor that can influences how people act following on from good communication and making it easier for people to do the right thing. Is it feasible for the council to encourage businesses with which the council engages via its procurement network to support the banning of these plastics in their own places of work? We don’t know.

We can ask the questions, and perhaps we can get some answers.  We need to have a good look at what we can do here in York and I’m asking council to please support this motion.