Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.


Surfers Challenge UK Parliament to Stop Using Plastic Cups

More than 2 million “avoidable” single-use plastic items were bought by the British parliament in 2017, according to a campaign group that is calling for politicians to lead by example in the war against plastic. 

The items include plastic straws stirrers, bottled drinks, plastic-lined coffee cups, condiment sachets, and plastic cutlery — all of which can be cut down by using environmentally-friendly alternatives, according to the group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS). 

The campaign group revealed the figures, attained through a Freedom of Information request, as part of the launch of its campaign “Plastic Free Parliament.” 

Take action: Fight Waste to Protect Our Oceans

“The engine to drive the war on plastic ware is in the Palace of Westminster, where our elected politicians can pass progressive new legislation to decouple society from its addiction to avoidable, single-use, plastics,” said Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage.

“They must also set an example in refusing avoidable plastics, and send a strong message to the world from a plastic-free parliament,” he said. 

All the single-use plastic items listed “can be eliminated or replaced by more sustainable and reusable options,” according to SAS.

Read more: 7 Ways to Cut Junk Plastic From Your Life

The group is particularly concerned about the high number of single-use coffee cups in the House of Commons and the House of Lords — with over 1.1 million cups and lids purchased last year. 

A recent study highlighted by SAS found that 500 reusable “keep cups” were bought in 2013, but only four of these environmentally-friendly alternatives had been sold up to November 2017, according to the campaign group.

The group also flagged the 22,000 plastic straws which were used by the Westminster estate last year. 

It said parliament is in a perfect position to “set an example for individuals, communities, and businesses as society decouples from its single-use plastic addiction.”

Read more: You Can Refill Water Bottles for Free in UK Shops and Cafes from 2021

Parliament has taken some steps to reduce its plastic use, but, according to SAS, there is still a lot more to do. 

The “Plastic Free Parliament” campaign is also urging MPs to pledge to cut down on their personal use of throw-away plastics, for example, by using refillable bottles rather than single-use bottles. As part of this, SAS is encouraging parliament to increase access to water fountains and other places to refill re-usable bottles.

The group has also written to the Speaker of the Commons — who is responsible for the administration and services of the House of Commons including maintenance of the Palace of Westminster and rest of the Parliamentary Estate — to ask if parliament can “lead by example in addressing this global problem, by taking ambitious action in their own backyard.” 

It comes as Prince Charles also addressed a London meeting of business leaders, supermarket sustainability chiefs, policymakers, and environmentalists about combatting plastic waste. 

Read more: 200 MPs Call on UK Supermarkets to Scrap Plastic Packaging

He described the scale of plastic pollution as a “nightmare” which was “set to get worse rather than better,” reported the Guardian, and said the challenge to improve the problem is “grave and unbelievably urgent.”

The Prince of Wales is calling for cross-sector collaboration to take local, national, and global action to stop plastic pollution — including through making plastics more recyclable, reducing the production of plastic, and collecting as much plastic as possible that has already made its way into the oceans.

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on life below water, life on land, and creating sustainable cities and communities. You can join us by taking action on these issues here