Plastic packaging waste has become a key consumer concern. In the UK, over 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging enter the consumer market each year. Much of this is used in the food sector because plastic packaging is cheap, light to transport, hygienic, and can be used to extend the product’s shelf-life. In the UK around 46% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, mostly through local authority collections. However several issues with the current systems of plastics recycling persist. This POSTbrief reviews proposals to Defra and HM Treasury to improve plastics recycling in the UK .

Medical tourism refers to when people seek medical treatment in a different country than the one they reside. In the context of this brief it refers to UK residents seeking elective, non-emergency medical treatment abroad. This briefing outlines the nature of the global medical tourism industry, the number of UK residents seeking medical treatments abroad, the types of treatments sought and the reasons for seeking them, the countries visited, and examines the issues raised for the patients and for the NHS on their return.

The EU operates space programmes which provide services such as navigation and weather forecasting to European citizens. These programmes include Galileo, the EU's global navigation satellite system (which is similar to GPS), Copernicus, the EU's Earth observation programme, and the EU space surveillance and tracking (EUSST) programme which aims to protect satellites from space debris. The UK has made significant contributions to the development and delivery of these programmes in recent decades, but there will be changes to future involvement at the end of the Brexit transition period.

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    This POSTbrief provides further information on the data limitations for understanding insect declines and emerging methods to address these limitations. Further detail is also given on the evidence for drivers of insect declines, such as disease or artificial light at night, which are summarised in POSTnote 619. The POSTbrief also highlights areas where evidence is established or where there are gaps in knowledge, such as insect abundance data.

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    Demand for health and social care continues to rise in the UK as people are living longer and a greater proportion have multiple health conditions requiring long-term treatment or care (such as diabetes, heart disease or dementia). Integrating health and social care has been considered as a possible response to these demographic changes, with the potential benefits including improved patient experience, and better quality of care through increased coordination and efficiency. It has been argued that effective integration could result in reduced use of hospital beds, lower hospital admissions rates, shorter hospital stays, shorter recovery periods and lower readmission rates. However, evidence on the impact of integration is mixed, with evaluations variously showing positive, negative and no effects. Cost savings have also been cited as a potential benefit, although reviews have noted that the economic evidence is limited and contradictory.

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    Under the July 2018 revision of the National Planning Policy Framework, the government requires local authorities in England to embed relevant strategies into local plans to deliver a net environmental gain over possible reductions caused by developments and infrastructure. The initial objective of this requirement will be to deliver gains in levels of biodiversity – short for biological diversity, the abundance and variety of species and their physical habitats – at the landscape level. In December 2018, Defra launched a consultation on implementing a mandatory biodiversity net gain requirement for development in England.

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    This document builds on POST's previous publication, Topics of Interest 2018 (POSTbrief 27). The subjects are listed under under six category headings based on the drivers of change identified in POSTnote 500: demographic change and healthcare; social and cultural trends; geopolitical and governance challenges; environmental pressures and climate change; resource security and sustainability; and technological advance.

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    5G is the next generation of mobile communications technology. It follows on from the previous generations of mobile technology, such as 3G and 4G. 5G is expected to improve on previous mobile technologies by providing faster, lower latency (response time) mobile broadband connections and being able to connect a greater number of devices to a mobile network in a particular area while maintaining good quality connections. 5G mobile broadband will be the first widespread application of the technology. However, in the longer term it may have applications in other sectors.

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    Despite its relatively temperate climate and stable geography, natural hazards present multiple risks to human activity in the UK. These range from small-scale local occurrences, such as landslides, through regional incidents, such as flooding, to major high impact, low probability events, such as space weather. The impacts of such hazards can be wide-ranging but may include disruption to critical infrastructure and transport networks, detrimental effects on human welfare, and, in some cases, loss of life. This POSTbrief summarises the emergency planning for such hazards undertaken by Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) of the Cabinet Office and published in the classified National Risk Assessment (NRA) and unclassified National Risk Register (NRR).

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    A POSTbrief that describes the research examining the long-term health outcomes associated with disruptions to sleep and the circadian rhythm. Long-term sleep problems are associated with a range of poor health outcomes including increased risk for mental health conditions, obesity and type 2 diabetes, amongst others.

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    Distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a type of digital records system that allows multiple identical copies of a ledger to be stored on different computers on a network and updated by multiple different users. This POSTbrief provides a technical overview of the different types of DLT and how they work. It discusses some of the main applications of DLT and highlights the benefits and challenges of the technology.

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    This list sets out the topic areas identified of possible parliamentary interest under the 9 different category headings (Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Forestry, Crime, Defence, Education and Skills, Energy, Environment, Health, ICT and Robotics and Transport and Infrastructure).

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