Some British members of parliament (MPs) have pledged to stop using plastic during Lent.
The group — made up of 41 MPs from the ruling Conservative party — will try not to buy single-use plastic bottles, disposable cutlery and plastic straws and use re-usable coffee cups in order to create as little plastic waste as possible.
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The campaigned was initiated by Vicky Ford, MP for Chelmsford. She initially discussed the idea with fellow Conservative MPs and after receiving a positive reception shared the concept further across the party.
The MPs getting involved in the plastic-free Lent initiative include 11 ministers, including secretary of state for the environment Michael Gove, leader of the House of Commons and former environment secretary Andrea Leadsom and secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Matt Hancock.
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What was said:
Vicky Ford MP told The Telegraph newspaper:
“It’s phenomenal! We have an MP for every day of Lent, and one spare. Giving up all plastics doesn’t necessarily help the environment…some plastics are better than other plastics and are easier to be reused, so we decided that the campaign should be focused on single-use plastics.
We should use this period to be more aware of the issues and more focused on the alternatives.
We believe the government can do some actions but we need some individuals to get involved and make a difference. If we want to see businesses change behaviour, it has to be driven by consumers.
Going on to acknowledge that it was not possible to completely cut out single-use plastics from modern life, Ford added:
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I am trying to limit my use of single-use plastics. There are some single-use plastics that I won’t be able to give up, for example the [contraceptive] pill, which I am not going to stop taking every day.
What this means:
Some 275,000 tons of plastic are used in the UK annually. This includes 7.7bn single-use plastic bottles, less than half of which are recycled. This means approximately 16m single-use plastic bottles are binned daily.
The MPs will use the hashtag #giveupplasticforLent whilst sharing their journey on social media and try to encourage the public to join in to further reduce the amount of plastic waste produced in the UK.
This could be supplemented by the church becoming involving the campaign and thinking how it can reduce its plastic use.
Both during and following Lent the MPs taking part intend to talk to manufacturers and retailers about what more could be done to reduce reliance on plastic.
This was a focus of Zac Goldsmith MP for Richmond, who said:
We have treated the world’s oceans as a rubbish dump for years and the effects on the natural world have been grotesque. We all have a role to play, and I am writing to all my local restaurants, bars, cafes and supermarkets to ask them to do their bit to wean our community off plastic.
Our first goal locally is to get rid of plastic straws, stirrers, un-recyclable cups.
The campaign originated after Vicky Ford MP saw a story on Sky News about how a piece of plastic from her constituency of Chelmsford ended up in a landfill site in China.
A lot of my constituents got very upset about [the sky news piece] and emailed me, and it got me thinking about how we can reduce the use of plastics and help reduce the amounts of non-recyclable plastics we are using.
The MP got the idea to give up plastic from her sister who told her of a colleague who went plastic free in January and Ms Ford thought that something similar could be done for Lent.