Richard Walker

Putting our own house in order

Once you start thinking about plastic waste it’s amazing how much of the stuff we all use unnecessarily – and how easy it is to stop it. In the run-up to announcing our own label plastic-free pledge we took a close look at what we are doing in our head office at Deeside, and I was shocked by just much unnecessary plastic we were using.

Before we went public with our plans on 16 January we stopped buying plastic bottles of water and soft drinks for our staff restaurant, meeting rooms and vending machines, replacing them with glass bottles and cans. We also encouraged all colleagues to buy reusable cups from our in-house Costa coffee bar, and sold more than 200 in the first couple of days that they were on sale. We will stop using disposable coffee cups completely very soon, when our current stock runs out. This will save 91,000 non-recyclable cups and lids a year being sent to landfill.

On the morning of the announcement every head office colleague found a refillable aluminium Iceland #toocoolforplastic water bottle waiting for them on their desk. We have adjusted the chilled water dispensing mechanism on our refreshment vending machines so that these bottles and other containers can now be refilled there, allowing us to end the use of disposable plastic cups. In the previous six months we had sent 62,000 of these to landfill, so that makes a further 124,000 a year of non-recyclable containers that we have taken out of our business.

If a head office employing 800 people was generating well over 200,000 items of needless plastic waste a year, I suppose it should come as no surprise that the Palace of Westminster chucked out more than two million single-use plastic items in 2017, according to the excellent Plastic Free Parliament campaign kicked off by Surfers Against Sewage.

We had an amazingly positive response from politicians when we announced our aim to eliminate plastic packaging from our own label range last month. Michael Gove immediately sent us a very supportive letter, 200 MPs signed a motion urging other retailers to follow our lead, and even Theresa May announced her backing for our stand at Prime Minister’s Questions.

So I can say with confidence that we have strong support across the House. With The Speaker and the chairman of the House of Commons administration committee having already expressed support for the plastic-free Parliament campaign, it looks like victory is already in sight. But if you still feel like giving your MP a nudge on the issue, you can contact them by clicking on this link:

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