Ever since Sir David Attenborough aired Blue Planet II—and declared the oceans in crisis like never before—there’s been a slew of action in the UK from lawmakers, companies and private citizens alike to cut back on plastic use.
From talk of banning wet wipes to coffee shop chains disposing of disposable cups, and from 2 Minute Beach Cleans to a supermarket pledging to go plastic-free, each story—by itself—is heart warming. but when viewed collectively, it really does feel like a turning point in terms of how we think about plastics and, in particular, single-use plastics.
Now The Guardian reports that the UK parliament is taking another step in the right direction. Sadly, that’s not yet the much rumored nationwide ban on single-use plastics. Instead, lawmakers are getting their own house in order first by eliminating non-recyclable water bottles, disposable cups and other plastics from the Houses of Parliament:
Parliament will stop purchasing non-recyclable disposable cups and plastic water bottles. The coffee cups will be replaced by a compostable alternative and to encourage a long-term move 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. Plastic bottles of water will no longer be on sale, with more water points installed. Condiment sachets and plastic cutlery and food packaging will be replaced by compostable alternatives.
Of course, Parliament’s own plastic use is a drop in the ocean (sorry!) compared to the nation as a whole, but given that a growing number of businesses and institutions ranging from the BBC to the Royal family are taking steps to clean up their own operations, we shouldn’t discount the cumulative impact of such initiatives. More importantly, however, the Houses of Parliament’s move has strong symbolic power, and sends a signal to broader society about which way this conversation is headed.
I look forward to more firmer legislative action in the near future too.