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Sat, 4 April 2020

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By Hege Saebjornsen, Sustainability Manager

The sea is not a waste dump. We must back Government legislation to help clean up our oceans

The sea is not a waste dump. We must back Government legislation to help clean up our oceans

The sheer amount of plastic waste that ends up in our seas is sobering. | PA Images

4 min read

As an island nation, protecting our ocean environment and marine life is especially important. Measures taken now will safeguard Britain’s natural treasures.

Representing the beautiful constituency of Truro and Falmouth in often-sunny Cornwall, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to natural beauty. One of the few constituencies in the UK to have a north and south coast – with rugged cliffs to the north and secluded bays and estuaries to the south – in Cornwall it is fair to say we are not short of marine environments that define where we live.

When I moved to Cornwall along with my now-husband (a commercial hook and line fisherman) and daughter, we ended up living in one of those secluded coves of the south coast. Going to the beach after work is a way of life – to relax, swim or just clear your head after a long day in the office in what is now becoming increasingly known and embraced as “social prescribing”.

But with these visits to my local Cornish beach came an increasing awareness of the marine litter that accumulates there on every tide, every day; not just the larger bits of plastic and metal, but often thousands of tiny nurdles – microplastics that have broken down after being in the sea for so long.

The sheer amount of plastic waste that ends up in our seas is sobering. There are now around 5 trillion macro- and microplastic pieces floating in our oceans, with a weight of over 250,000 tonnes.

We all have a part to play in reducing our use of plastics, from making decisions as individuals or households to cut back on what we use and waste, to cleaning up where we can.

The sheer amount of plastic waste that ends up in our seas is sobering

Before I was elected MP for Truro and Falmouth last December, I served on Cornwall Council. Along with other local councillors, I made it my mission to change the culture of visiting the beach by incorporating beach cleans, known as #2minutebeachcleans, into every visit. We were doing our bit to clear up our valuable green and blue spaces while also working on the council to reform the beach management strategy – something which is so important to Cornwall where the tourist industry is a huge economic driver, along with our traditional fishing and farming communities.

Now as a Member of Parliament, I find myself able to influence how we treat our environment on a grander, more strategic scale.

At the beginning of March, just over three months since my election, I find myself sitting on the Public Bill Committee for the Environment Bill, with the opportunity to give this incredibly important piece of legislation line-by-line scrutiny.

This Environment Bill will help the Government to uphold its manifesto commitment to delivering the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth. It is part of the wider Government response to the clear and scientific case, and growing public demand, for a step-change in environmental protection and recovery.

Along with the Agriculture and Fisheries Bills, this legislation will define how we as a country operate beyond Brexit, and how our core farming and fishing industries are able to operate in harmony with our environment for the good of all.

It is certainly an exciting time to be an MP and I am honoured to be able to have direct feed into these transformative pieces of law. I firmly believe that we will be able to excel away from the EU, drive up our own environmental standards to never-before-seen levels, work with industry to incentivise a reduction in single-use plastics, and continue to be a world leader and beacon in the fight to live more sustainably.

 

Cherilyn Mackrory is Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth.

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