Around a million disposable barbecues are sold each year in the UK. Once used, they cannot be recycled and the resources used are lost forever. But this wasteful product sometimes creates a far more destructive effect: wildfires.
Record high temperatures this summer turned much of the UK into a tinderbox and we again saw the devastating effects of wildfires on our most vulnerable and valuable landscapes. Wildfires caused by discarded disposable barbecues are as avoidable as they are destructive. We cannot afford to subject our natural landscapes to this unnecessary abuse any longer.
That’s why, on Tuesday the 22nd of November, I am introducing a 10 Minute Rule Bill to prohibit the use of disposable barbecues on open moorland, on beaches, in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in certain other areas designated for environmental protection.
My wonderful constituency, North Devon, is blessed with some of the UK’s best beaches and the temptation of a barbecue by the sea is understandable. Unfortunately, in September of this year we saw the impact that a poorly discarded barbecue can have, as 20 acres of gorseland at Baggy Point were engulfed in flames. The blaze required 12 attending fire stations to stem the flames but the damage done was immense despite their best efforts. This fire was caused by an improperly discarded barbecue being blown up from the beach to the grass above.
This story is repeated over and over each summer across the country, from peatland fires in the Peak District to the destruction of farmland, livestock, and wildlife. It is high time we give local authorities the power to protect our countryside.
My colleague, the MP for High Peak, Robert Largan, previously brought this issue to the attention of Parliament and subsequently secured a ban on the sale of disposable barbecues in his constituency after a wildfire in 2019 on Marsden Moor damaged 700 hectares of moorland and a similar fire in the previous year caused an estimated £200,000 of damage. A ban on their use on Dartmoor was also introduced this summer to help avoid a similar situation. This ban though was temporary in both instances.
As the climate continues to warm it is likely that we are going to see increasingly dry and hot summers that will prime our countryside for wildfires in the summer months. Although the commitment by various retailers to stop the sale of barbecues in certain areas and certain times of the year is welcome, a more permanent solution needs to be found so that the protection of our countryside is not reliant upon sporadic pressure campaigns and instead in the hands of local authorities who understand the needs of and pressures on their environment.
Many of us enjoy a barbecue during the summer months. Unfortunately the waste and risks associated with taking a disposable barbecue to the beach or local beauty spot are simply too high to justify. Let’s stop enabling this vandalism of our countryside and put an end to disposable barbecues.
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