FCO reduces use of plastic cups and cutlery by 97%

Written by Richard Johnstone on 30 November 2018 in News
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Department lauds reaching a major milestone in campaign to eliminate plastics

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The Foreign Office has revealed that it has reduced the amount of single-use plastics used by its staff in the UK by 97% as part of departmental efforts to cut the use of plastics across Whitehall.

According to figures published by the department this week, the FCO has removed 1.56 million pieces of plastic since February. Per person, this means an annual drop in avoidable single use plastics from 310 to 10 in just 10 months.

Departments are required to remove all consumer single-use plastics such as coffee cups and cutlery from the central government estate offices under the government’s 25-year environment plan. This forms part of a nationwide target to “eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042”.


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The Foreign Office itself pledged to eliminate all single-use plastics from its UK operations by the end of 2018 and to stop the use of all avoidable single-use plastics across its overseas network by 2020.

The department said that the reduction this year includes over half a million disposable plastic coffee cups being completely removed from the FCO’s UK estate since the introduction of a 50p levy in April. Biodegradable coffee cups are now provided as an alternative, but staff are encouraged to use their own mugs. This is a significant change from last year, when hot beverage cups accounted for 48% of plastic waste in FCO catering.

To cut other catering-related waste, the FCO has removed plastic cups, takeaway cutlery, food containers, and drinks bottles, which have been entirely replaced with 'vegware' biodegradable alternatives.

The remaining 3% of plastic waste still produced is currently unavoidable, since it is within the supply chain. The FCO said it is committed to working with its partners and implementing the necessary changes as they become possible within the industry.

Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad said the huge drop in single-use plastics showed the department was leading the way on action against plastics.

The announcement was made during Ahmad’s trip to the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Kenya, and the first ministerial meeting of the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, which has made eliminating plastic pollution from oceans its top priority.

“Plastic waste is a global problem that threatens ocean life and endangers whole ecosystems,” he said.

“Every one of us has the power to make choices which can reduce our own plastic use. As we take our message around the world and call on other countries to take action, it is only right we strive to eliminate all avoidable single-use plastic here in the UK and it is fantastic to see the Foreign Office leading the way.”

About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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