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Parliament’s plans for plastics

Parliament has agreed to a raft of measures to reduce its consumption of single-use plastics
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Parliament’s plans for plastics

Yesterday (15 May), the UK Parliament announced a range of steps to reduce its consumption of single-use plastics by 2019.

From coffee cups and straws to plastic bags and water bottles, these measures will virtually eliminate single-use avoidable plastics from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, replacing them with compostable alternatives or reusable options.

Condiments, cups and bottles

From summer 2018, plastic bottles of mineral water will no longer be on sale in parliament, immediately removing 125,000 plastic bottles from its annual waste. Instead, the availability of water dispensers will be increased.

Parliament will also stop buying non-recyclable disposable cups, instead opting for a compostable alternative. To encourage long-term behaviour change away from single-use items, a 25p charge will be added to hot drinks served in the new compostable cups. Reusable coffee cups will be available to buy, and incentives will be offered to customers who refill them.

Parliament currently gets through around 335,000 sachets of condiments per year. The House of Lords has already discontinued their use, and now the House of Commons will follow suit. From summer 2018, customers at catering venues across parliament will serve themselves sauces from refillable containers instead.

Compostable alternatives will replace all disposable plastic items used in catering venues, from cutlery and salad containers to take away food boxes and plastic tumblers. These new items will be captured in a new waste stream so they can be recycled effectively.

No more plastic bags

In 2019 plastic carrier bags will be phased out in retail outlets on the Parliamentary Estate. Instead, paper carrier bags will be available alongside the branded fabric shopping bags that are already available to buy. A green stationery catalogue will help to ensure that office-based staff can contribute to sustainability as they work.

‘Revised procurement procedures’ will ensure that parliament’s suppliers consider the environmental impact of packaging. Reusable packaging solutions will be trialled in parliament’s warehouses and for its deliveries, reducing single-use avoidable plastics further.

These actions form part of a wider strategy to reduce the impact of the organisation on the natural environment, including targets around energy efficiency, water consumption and reducing waste, together with a sustainable catering supplies policy.

Greenpeace’s reaction

Responding to the new measures, Fiona Nicholls, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said, ‘We so often say that we want action not words from politicians. So it’s fantastic to see MPs ditching throwaway plastic in Parliament – from bottles and straws to bags, coffee cups and sachets. Every time an MP takes a sip from a reusable cup, or fills a reusable bottle from a water dispenser, they’ll be reminded of just how seriously the British public take the issue of plastic pollution and how we’re counting on them to help end the age of throwaway plastic.’

Fiona added, ‘Now let’s see ambitious action on forcing the producers of all this single-use rubbish to take more responsibility. This means ambitious taxation measures, a comprehensive deposit return scheme for all drinks containers, and bans for non-recyclable problem plastics before the end of this year.’

Click here to add your name to the call for supermarkets to introduce a plastic-free aisle.

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