UK Parliament is aiming to eliminate all cases of avoidable single-use plastics from both Houses by 2019. Reusable coffee cups were introduced earlier this year, and the compostable range of items will be introduced throughout October 2018.

The plastic-reducing initiatives were agreed by the House of Commons Administration Committee in March 2018 following notable reports from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on the damage that single-use plastics items can have on the environment.

The Commons Administration Committee’s chair, Sir Paul Beresford MP, said: “I am delighted to see significant progress being made in tackling single use avoidable plastics in Parliament. The measures we are introducing are ambitious and wide-ranging, covering not just coffee cups but an array of items from plastic bottles, our new compostable products, to condiment sachets and stationery.

“Our aim is to remove, as far as possible, disposable plastic items from the Parliamentary Estate. Our challenging targets reflect Parliament’s commitment to leading the way in environmental sustainability.”

New waste bins will be introduced onsite for the compostable items, which are provided by Vegware. The items are made from a sustainably sourced board, and polylactic acid biopolymers PLA and CPLA which are derived from plant starch.

Waste service providers Bywaters will collect and take the bins to a composting facility. The materials for the items are meant to biodegrade at the same rate as paper. Food waste will be captured separately and sent to an anaerobic digestion facility to produce bio-fertiliser and methane gas for energy generation.

No figures have been provided on the expected reduction in single-use plastic items as a result of the switch. edie also reached out to the EAC for comment.

A-K action plan

Parliament has also noted that it will stop selling bottled water from October, immediately removing 120,000 plastics bottles from circulations. Condiment sachets will also be replaced.

Further changes, listed by Parliament as “phase three”, include phasing-out plastic bags in retails outlets on the estate by early 2019, promoting “greener” stationary, an overhaul of packaging and procurement procedures and trialling reusable packaging.

In 2017, Parliament disposed of 753,000 disposable cups and 416,000 plastic lids – an impressive transformation considering more than 2.5 million disposable cups were purchased by the UK’s environment department over a five-year period.

The A-K list of measures to be implemented by Parliament are as follows:

A) Eliminate sales of water in plastic bottles

B) Introduce a 25p additional cost on hot drinks purchased in disposable cups (for a trial period)

C) Sell reusable drinks cups to encourage behaviour change away from single-use disposables

D) Incentivise use of reusable cups through additional loyalty rewards in the House of Commons and continued discounts in the House of Lords

E) Introduce fixed condiment sauce dispensers in the House of Commons (the House of Lords has already discontinued individual condiment sachets)

F) Substitute disposable catering items (including plastic-lined coffee cups) with compostable alternatives and introduce a compostable waste stream (including purchase of 800 additional bins)

G) Replace plastic drinks tumblers with compostable cups across both Houses

H) Replace plastic carrier bags with paper ones in retail outlets

I) Implement a ‘green stationery’ catalogue

J) Produce procedures for incorporating the environmental impact of packaging into the weighting of relevant procurement and tender exercises

K) Pilot a re-usable packaging ‘totes’ scheme for deliveries.

Matt Mace

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