Parliament vows to ‘eliminate’ single-use plastics from operations by 2019

Parliament has today announced its goal to "virtually eliminate" single-use plastics from its internal operations by 2019, by taking measures such as phasing out sauce sachets, banning the sale of single-use water bottles and introducing a "latte levy" on disposable coffee cups.

The first step in Parliament’s ambitious new plastics plan is the introduction of a 25p additional cost on hot drinks purchased in disposable cups, identical to the ‘latte levy’ which was proposed by the EAC for retailers in January and rejected by government in March. The charge will be introduced this summer in a bid to reduce the amount of single-use coffee cups which are purchased in either the House of Commons or House of Lords then sent to landfill, which is estimated to be almost 753,000 annually.

Another move for summer 2018 will be a ban on the sale of plastic bottles of mineral water, which Parliament claims will remove 125,000 bottles from its annual waste. This move will be supported with the installation of more water filters.

“Our aim is to remove, as far as possible, disposable plastic items from the Parliamentary Estate,” Sir Paul Beresford MP, chair of the Commons Administration Committee, which recommended the proposals for the House of Commons, said.

“Our challenging targets reflect Parliament’s commitment to leading the way in environmental sustainability. I am looking forward to tracking our progress over the next 12 months as these changes are implemented and will be proudly drinking my coffee from a House of Commons reusable cup.”

Lord Laming, chair of the House of Lords Services Committee, which agreed the proposals for the House of Lords, echoed Beresford’s sentiments and said the new plastics plan offered “a holistic approach to plastic reduction, considering everything from disposable cutlery to packaging”.

Catering and retail

Also included in the plastics ban were disposable condiment sachets, of which Parliament uses around 335,000 each year. The House of Lords has already discontinued their use, and now they will be removed from catering venues across Parliament this summer and replaced with sauces from refillable containers.

On the subject of catering resources, plastic coffee cup lids and plastic cutlery will be substituted with compostable alternatives starting this summer, cutting a total of more than 1.1 million pieces of single-use plastic from Parliamentary waste annually. The same measure will also be taken with straws within the same timeframe, but with a small number of plastic straws are being retained for use by those with a medical requirement.

As for retail, shopping outlets on the Parliamentary estate continue to use single-use plastic bags -but under the new plastics plan, they will begin to be phased out and replaced with paper bags and re-useable fabric alternatives in 2019.

The war on plastics

The issues surrounding plastic waste have undoubtedly caught public attention over with past few months following the publication of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s damning report on ocean plastics, with several big-name companies across a range of sectors implementing measures to cut single-use plastic use.

In the sporting sector, Wimbledon this month announced it it will use recyclable paper straws for the 2018 tournament, in a bid to prevent more than 400,000 plastic straws going to landfill, while Premier League will strive to eliminate all single-use plastics from its operations and supply chains in the next two years as part of its partnership with Sky.

Several big-name hospitality and food service industry chains including JD Wetherspoon, McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, Pizza Express, Waitrose and All Bar One have also started phasing out plastic straws in the past year, in addition to Heathrow Airport and London City Airport. And in the hospitality sector, AccorHotels,  Malmaison and Hotel du Vin have also pledged to eliminate plastic straws from restaurants, bars and cafes on their estates.

Sarah George

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