From consume and dispose to create and reuse, we'll tackle plastic

Reusing and recycling will be at the heart of a new green Tees Valley under Labour.

From furniture to food we will see a shift away from consume and dispose to create and reuse. Single use plastic packaging that takes thousands of years to break down in landfills and which has clogged up the oceans is the main problem in a disposable culture that must be tackled by us all as part of changing the Tees and the world we live in.

We can all play our part in saving the planet. There will be big projects driven by government and industry that need to be backed by massive investment and there are also smaller just as important actions by individuals and communities that need support too.

At the weekend I visited a new 'zero waste' shop in Saltburn. Cut Back is a brilliant idea to tackle the scourge of single use plastic and packaging by reusing bottles and containers. The shop, launched by Tracy Reeve, sells sustainable cleaning, personal care and kitchen essentials like flour with customers bringing their own containers along to refill.

It's a bit of a flashback to the old fashioned shops our grand-parents were used to but it is a great idea and a small step towards sustainable shopping at a local level.

Tracy has worked so hard to turn her dream into a reality and these are exactly the kind of projects that need start-up support to be a success and to inspire others to tackle waste.

As mayor I plan to introduce a £2m 'Re-Use Tees Valley' scheme to incentivise recycling and green schemes to cut waste and this is exactly the kind of idea I had in mind. Cutting waste of all kinds is incredibly important to me and I will back ideas like these to reduce plastic waste.

And food waste too. That must be tackled. Across the UK a million tonnes of perfectly food are sent to landfill sites every year from shops and restaurants. That is a drain on our environment but also a missed opportunity to mitigate food poverty.

I will get behind projects such as Hartlepool Food Network, who reduce food waste and provide food for social activities and I would ensure similar schemes are supported and scaled up across our five boroughs. We can make a difference at that end of the scale.

But big projects are important too. In the past few days we've heard a new plastic recycling plant is being built at Wilton using a revolutionary "hydrothermal" process to turn it back into oil to be reused. It means types of plastic that can't be recycled right now will be in future.

It will process 80,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year. The project has been given Government funding and that is great news. Labour nationally are pushing for a £30 billion new green deal to support initiatives like this and I will fight to bring them to the Tees. We will help tackle the global climate emergency. We built the world, now is our time to save it.

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