Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been urged to “get his own house in order” after it emerged that his department has bought 2.5m disposable cups for its restaurants and cafe in the last five year - the equivalent of almost 1,400 a day.
A Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats revealed that more than 516,000 disposable cups have been purchased by catering contractors for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) in the last year alone.
This follows the purchase of 589,700 in 2016 and 785,100 the previous year.
The two catering contractors used across the department’s sites did not previously provide any reusable cups, but purchased 200 reusable cups on 31 October 2017.
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrats former leader, who is now their environment spokesman said it was “astounding” that the department, which has publicly pledged to tackle the growing scourge of plastic pollution, is responsible for “such a colossal amount of waste.”
He added: “Millions of plastic cups have been thrown away by the government, some of which will now be polluting our seas, rivers and countryside. Michael Gove needs to get his own house in order.”
Separate figures obtained by the party revealed the House of Commons itself has used almost 4 million disposable cups in the past five years, with 657,000 disposable cups bought by its catering service in the last year alone – the equivalent to 1,000 per MP.
In addition, 500 reusable or so-called “keep cups” were purchased in 2013, but only four of these have been sold in the last three years.
An estimated 3bn paper cups are thrown away in the UK every year, but it was recently revealed that less than one in 400 is recycled, meaning millions end up in landfill.
Mr Farron said a coffee cup charge should be introduced in the budget to tackle waste and encourage the use of reusable cups, including in the civil service and parliament.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for the introduction of a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups in the budget. It follows the success of the plastic carrier bag charge, which has reduced usage in England by 85 per cent since it was introduced in October 2015.
A spokesperson for Defra said: “We are committed to reducing unnecessary waste within the department and these figures show the number of disposable cups used has fallen by more than half since 2013. We are working with our suppliers to see what more can be done to further cut their use and promote recycling.”
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