The UK Parliament has announced that it intends to lead by example by replacing existing single-use plastic items in the House of Commons and the House of Lords with a new range of compostable products.
The plant-based products include certified compostable single-use cutlery, coffee cups and lids, soup containers, takeaway food containers, salad boxes, and drinking straws. New waste bins will be introduced to capture used compostable items, which will then be sent to a specialist waste facility. An in-vessel composting method will use a combination of heat and microbes to turn the waste into compost fit for any garden. Food waste is already captured separately and sent to an anaerobic digestion facility to produce biofertilizer and methane gas for energy generation.
Compostable products are just one of several measures announced earlier this year with the ambitious aim of eliminating single-use avoidable plastics from both Houses by 2019. The first phase of the plan saw the introduction of re-usable coffee cups in June this year, with more than a thousand cups already sold to MPs, Peers, visitors, and staff working in Parliament. The roll-out of the new range in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords will be complete by October and is expected to result in a dramatic reduction in single-use plastics in Parliament.
From October 2018, Parliament will stop selling bottled water, immediately removing 120,000 plastic bottles from circulation annually. Plastic condiment sachets have also been identified as unnecessary and will be replaced with a sustainable alternative.
Sir Paul Beresford MP, Chair of the Commons Administration Committee, which recommended the proposals for the House of Commons, 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.
Lord Laming, Chair of the House of Lords Services Committee, which agreed the proposals for the House of Lords, said: “Parliament has acknowledged the damaging effect single-use disposable plastic is having on the environment and that it must lead the way in valuing our environmental future over convenience. This review has taken a holistic approach to plastic reduction, considering everything from disposable cutlery to packaging. The House of Lords has already substituted plastic straws with compostable paper ones, and eliminated plastic condiment sachets: I am delighted that Parliament will now be going much further to reduce the impact we make on the environment.”
The new compostable products are provided by UK based company Vegware. The range is made from sustainably-sourced board, and biopolymers PLA and CPLA which are derived from plant starch. The used disposables will be taken to the in-vessel composting facility by waste service provider, Bywaters. Waste products are first shredded, and the composting process is kick-started by naturally occurring micro-organisms already in the waste. The materials this range of products is made from biodegrade at the same rate as paper and the process results in a high quality compost.
Eilidh Brunton, Vegware’s Group Recycling Consultant, said: “The UK Parliament choosing and composting Vegware is the highest accolade for compostable disposables as a practical recycling solution in foodservice. It’s an exemplar of best practice, breathing life into circular economy principals, composting biowaste here in the UK to enrich British soils. We are delighted to be a part of this collaboration.”
Further changes due to be implemented in the coming months include: Plastic carrier bags will continue to be phased out in retail outlets on the Parliamentary Estate during 2018-19; Parliament will promote greener stationery items in partnership with our stationery provider, to reduce the environmental impact of our consumption; Revised procedures will be implemented to incorporate the environmental impact of packaging into the weighting of relevant procurement and tender exercises to incentive suppliers to reduce the amount of single-use avoidable plastics in their goods and services; Reusable warehousing, delivery and packaging solutions will be trialled, further reducing single-use avoidable plastics.