I don’t know if it’s me just becoming more aware of the issue since I’ve been writing, but the issue of single-use plastics seems to be being pushed further into the spotlight. The final episode of Blue Planet II also may have helped; the effects of plastics on the environment and marine ecosystems were highlighted and many people seem to have taken notice and want to do something about it.
Coffee shops are offering discounts, supermarkets are pledging to remove plastics from packaging, and many bars and restaurants have or are planning to change to biodegradable straws or not serving straws at all. There does appear to be a real conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced in the UK, and countries all over the world are doing something similar.
In the UK Parliament, Michael Gove, UK Environment Secretary, recently stated the effect that that Blue Planet II episode had on him. At a similar time, he was carrying a disposable coffee cup… But credit to him and many other members of parliament, they were quickly replaced with reusable coffee cups. Microplastics in cosmetic and hygienic products will be banned from shop shelves this year and, whilst there was little detail to a less than enthusiastic goal, the Conservatives plan to eradicate all avoidable plastic by 2042.
So, just how much single-use plastic does the UK Parliament consume?
Short answer: A lot.
An investigation by the Liberal Democrats found that in 2017 alone, MP’s used over one million single-use coffee cups. That’s over 1500 coffee cups per MP a year, nearly 5 a day… is that even healthy? A catering company that ordered 500 reusable cups to be sold in the House of Commons has only sold four in five years, that obviously doesn’t include those that have purchased there own and are using there own, but it doesn’t look good.\
When other single-use plastics are considered alongside coffee cups, there were almost two million single-use plastic products used by MPs in 2017. A staggering amount of plastic products. Given the pledges that the UK Government has made recently, many MPs need to take the lead and reduce plastic consumption in the House of Commons.
What can you do?
Go to www.sas.org.uk/plastic-free-parliament/ and contact your local MP encouraging them to stop using single-use plastics. This campaign by the Surfers Against Sewage is called ‘Plastic Free Parliament’ and aims to reduce the amount of single-use plastics used in Parliament. There are already over 53 MPs who have already signed up to support a reduction in single-use plastics so your local MP may already be up there, but if they aren’t then it’s time they were!
In my case, Julian Lewis MP isn’t yet but enough pressure from constituents will change his mind! It’s something everyone can do and will cost almost nothing but 5 minutes of your time, the link above makes it super easy to get in contact and also includes a template that can be copied and posted easily.
There are too many single-use plastics being produced and used in the UK and Parliament is just one place where they are being consumed on a large scale. MPs being contacted by constituents is already working with 53 names in support and that number is increasing daily! It’s time your local MP joined!