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The NHS and the 609,830,335 disposable single use plastic cups

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Around the world there is a crisis; a crisis of disposable plastic cups that are filling up landfill and increasingly finding their way into the world’s oceans and food supply chains. Then following a simple Freedom of Information Request to the Government it was casually disclosed that the National Health Service is in some way responsible for at least some of this mountain of waste material because over the last five years the NHS has bought a staggering 600 million disposable plastic cups.

Only 174 out of the 223 NHS Trusts across England replied to the Freedom of Information Request and therefore critics believe that the actual figure is much higher than the 600 million cups reported. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust in London alone bought almost 30 million disposable cups!

The report’s total is 609,830,335 cups over the five year period equal to the NHS using 334,000 every single day. Leading environmental campaigners are leading a charge to change policy at NHS Trusts with regard to single use cups with Greenpeace going as far as to say that the system and the NHS’s control of it demonstrates ‘just how out of control our relationship with single use plastic has become.’

Some clinical reasons exist for the use of plastic disposable cups such as avoiding dangerous situations such as glass cups on mental health wards but most wards can avoid plastic cups altogether.

Dr Sue Kinsey, of the Marine Conservation Society added: “If it really is an impossibility to wash cups, at the very least, the service should move away from using polystyrene, which is not easily recyclable and move to a system where cups are collected and recycled.”

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