Network Rail targets plastics, cups and coffee grounds in latest waste drive

Network Rail has unveiled sweeping plans to reduce waste across the country's busiest rail stations, by implementing a ban on plastic cutlery and expanding recycling schemes for disposable cups and waste coffee grounds.

Network Rail currently diverts 94% of its waste from landfill but will implement three new goals across its managed stations to reduce the amount of waste it produces across three key product streams.

By the end of 2020, retailers at managed stations will be banned from supplying plastic cutlery and cups, while a recycling system for disposable cups will also be introduced during the same timeframe. Finally, Network Rail will expand a coffee ground recycling initiative to all managed stations.

Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne said: “Network Rail has an important responsibility to the British public which goes much further than travel. We manage Britain’s biggest and busiest stations and we have to ensure we are using that role to make sensible and ethical decisions to protect our environment.

“That’s why today we’re proud to announce that we will be tackling some of the biggest sustainability issues we face head on.”

Network Rail has written to 150 retail brands, including Waitrose, Greggs and Caffe Nero, that are based in its 20 managed stations to outline collaborative plans to phase-out the single-use plastic items.

Waste departure

The cup recycling trial will see retailers place the items into special bins in staff only areas – Network Rail has safety parameters to consider when installing public bins – which are then taken offsite to be reprocessed into materials for benches, decking and reusable cups. More than 20 million cups of coffee are sold at the managed stations each year.

Network Rail will also expand its coffee ground recycling initiative – which sees waste collectors Bio-Bean transform waste coffee grounds into biomass pellets – to its managed stores by 2020. So far, the partnership has seen coffee grounds from more than nine million cups of coffee recycled into a clean fuel for domestic use.

The three initiatives build on Network Rail’s efforts to reduce plastic bottle use, after it rolled-out free water fountains in London Charing Cross, Liverpool Lime Street, Birmingham New Street, Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston. Each location has saved around 1,000 plastic bottles each week since the rollout in February 2018.

Commenting on the waste initiatives, Waitrose’s head of responsible sourcing and sustainability Tor Harris said: “The environment is important to all of us so anything to reduce single-use plastic can only be positive. We’ve already announced that we won’t be offering disposable cups from Autumn 2018, so share the same aims as Network Rail.” 

Matt Mace

Comments (1)

  1. Trevor Smith says:

    Very commendable – although a bit more focus on sorting the timetables out would be welcome …

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