Michael Gove brings disposable coffee cup to meeting about environmental concerns

UK

Michael Gove turned up to discuss environment issues with ministers carrying a disposable coffee cup, despite leading the country’s efforts to tackle plastic waste.

The environment secretary has previously been pictured using a reusable cup, amid growing pressure to tackle the 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away in the UK every year.

Mr Gove even handed out bamboo coffee cups to members of the cabinet in January, after ministers were spotted bringing disposable cups to meetings.

However, the reusable version appeared to have been abandoned in favour of a plastic-lined, single-use cup as he gave evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on the work of Defra – including topics such as farming, air quality and post-Brexit plans.

When challenged about his use of the cup, Mr Gove said: “I’m afraid it’s the House of Commons canteen.”

The move follows the announcement of plans to rid parliament of more than 750,000 disposable coffee cups and 125,000 plastic bottles from its annual waste and “virtually eliminate plastics” from the building by 2019.

Since becoming environment secretary, Mr Gove has pledged to fight the “scourge” of plastic pollution after stating he was “haunted” by images from Blue Planet II showing the impact it was having on the environment.

Marine animals are particularly affected by plastic pollution, as they can consume or become tangled in items floating in the sea.

Disposable cups generally end up on landfill or being incinerated due to their plastic lining, which can only be removed at specialist facilities.

As only three such facilities currently exist in the UK, fewer than 1 per cent of coffee cups are currently recycled.

MPs on the committee previously called for a 25p “latte levy” to be added to all disposable coffee cups, with the revenue from the charge being spent on improve recycling facilities.

The Independent’s Cut the Cup Waste campaign has highlighted the issue of cup waste, and found the majority of the British public would support a levy.

Campaigners have pointed to the success of the 5p charge on plastic bags, which has led to a sharp decline in their use.

Despite this support, the government has so far resisted its implementation, a decision that was condemned by environmental groups and MPs.

At the time Mary Creagh, the chair of the committee, said: “Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis. 

“The government’s response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action.”

Friends of the Earth’s director of campaigns Liz Hutchins said: “Forgetting your reusable coffee cup every now and again is understandable – but let’s hope Mr Gove’s commitment to tackling plastic pollution is far more memorable.”

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson declined to comment.

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