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Parliament sets out plan to purge plastics

Disposable coffee cups and plastic bottles will be eliminated from the House of Commons and House of Lords as part of a range of measures aimed at drastically reducing Parliament’s consumption of single-use plastics.

From this summer, the UK Parliament will stop purchasing non-recyclable disposable cups, replacing them with a compostable alternative. It currently disposes of almost 753,000 coffee cups each year. A 25p charge will be added to hot drinks served in the new compostable cups to encourage people to buy a reusable coffee cup with incentives offered to customers who refill them.

Plastic bottles of mineral water will also be removed from sale, immediately removing 125,000 plastic bottles from Parliament’s annual waste footprint. Instead, the availability of water dispensers will be increased.

Other measures announced this week include the removal of condiment sachets from catering venues across Parliament to be replaced with refillable containers; and the phasing out of plastic carrier bags to be replaced with paper alternatives.

Compostable alternatives to disposable plastic items such as cutlery and salad containers and plastic tumblers will also be introduced and will be captured in a new waste stream, ensuring they can be recycled effectively.

Revised procurement procedures will be implemented to ensure that Parliament’s suppliers consider the environmental impact of packaging.

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

“The measures we are introducing are ambitious and wide ranging, covering not just coffee cups but an array of items from plastic bottles and straws to condiment sachets and stationery,” said Sir Paul Beresford MP, chair of the Commons Administration Committee, which recommended the proposals for the House of Commons. “Our aim is to remove, as far as possible, disposable plastic items from the Parliamentary Estate.”

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Mary Creagh MP welcomed the announcement and said it stood in stark contrast to ministers “who consult, announce and re-announce, but never seem to do anything to turn back the plastic tide”.

She urged the UK Government to follow Parliament’s lead and introduce a ‘latte levy’ for coffee cups, a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, “and make sure that those who produce the packaging pay to recycle it”.