Compostable products to replace plastic in Parliament

The UK Parliament will be replacing some single-use plastics with compostable alternatives, it was announced today (20 September).

The news comes as part of Parliament’s pledge back in May to ‘virtually eliminate single-use avoidable plastics’ by 2019 from the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

It has been revealed that 753,000 disposable cups were thrown away in Parliament in 2017, along with 416,000 lids, 23,750 plastic straws and 740,000 pieces of plastic cutlery. Now, these single-use items, as well as takeaway food containers will all be replaced with compostable equivalents made from plant-based materials. The rollout of the new range is expected to be completed by October 2018 in both Parliamentary Houses.

Compostable products to replace plastic in Parliament
Some of the Vegware range of compostable plastic products

The manufacturer, Vegware, makes its products from a range of renewable materials including trees, corn and sugarcane. Commenting on the new deal with Parliament, Eilidh Brunton, the company’s Group Recycling Consultant, commented: “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 principles, composting biowaste here in the UK to enrich British soils. We are delighted to be a part of this collaboration.”

Compostable plastics have growing in profile in the UK as the issue of single-use plastic waste maintains its spot at the top of the environmental agenda. There has been a recent upsurge in the number of organisations moving towards compostable products, with Waitrose announcing earlier this week that it would be replacing plastic fruit and veg bags with compostable ones.

Compostable items will only break down in the right conditions, so it is key that organisations offering these products ensure they reach composting facilities once they have been used. This is easier in a closed environment, where food is consumed and disposed of on site. On the Parliamentary Estate, new waste bins will be set up intended specifically to capture the Vegware products, which will then be taken to an in-vessel composting (IVC) facility to be turned into compost.

Vegware recently announced that the number of facilities able to process compostable products in the UK has grown under a new ruling allowing garden waste composting sites to process coffee cups and lids. Previously, open windrow composting plants were prohibited from processing anything containing food waste, but the new rules allow these sites, as well as IVC facilities, to accept compostable cups.

As long as these items find their way into the correct waste bins, using compostable containers can improve the capture of food and drink waste as well as reducing single-use plastic consumption, as any organic waste left in the container is processed at the same time as the item itself.

Lord Laming, Chair of the House of Lords Services Committee, which was responsible for recommending the use of compostable items in the Lords, stated: “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.”

Other actions already taken by Parliament to reduce plastic waste include the introduction of reusable coffee cups in June this year, while the estate plans to stop selling bottled water entirely from October, which it claims will remove 120,000 bottles from circulation. 

Related Articles