REVEALED: How government departments dump millions of disposable coffee cups every year

Posted On: 
1st February 2018

Government departments have used more than four million disposable coffee cups in just the past four years, official figures have revealed.

Michael Gove recently gave his colleagues in the Cabinet reusable cups
PA Images

Data released by a small number of departments showed that 4.6 million single-use cups had been purchased since 2014 - indicating that the actual number will be far higher.

One department used almost a million cups in one year, while others were well into the hundreds of thousands.

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Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said ministers "simply haven't been taking this problem seriously" while Labour MP Catherine West urged the Prime Minister to tackle the "disposable culture".

The revelation comes as the Government tries to crack down on waste in a bid to burnish its environmental credentials.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove bought each Cabinet minister a reusable coffee cup last month after he was admonished in the press for carrying a throw-away model into Downing Street.

Mr Gove has also pledged to eliminate single-use plastics in central government offices.

The Ministry of Justice alone used almost 1 million cups over the last financial year, including in prisons, according to the figures unearthed by the Labour MP Mary Creagh in a set of parliamentary questions.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office used more than 650,000 two years running, and the Department of Health used almost 1 million between October 2014 and September last year.

The Department for International Development said it bought 52,000 compostable cups in 2017 and 36,000 card and plastic cups.

And the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it bought almost 300,000 last year - down by more than 100,000 compared with 2014

Answering a question asked by Labour MP Catherine West, the Department for International Trade said it used about 50,000 disposable coffee cups a year and a massive 250,000 disposable water cups.

Ms West told PoliticsHome there was a "moral duty" tackle the disposable culture which "starts with the Prime Minister getting her our own Government in order".


Brighton Pavilion MP Ms Lucas said: "It's truly shocking that the Government has purchased over 4 million disposable coffee cups in the past five years - they should be leading the way on this issue, not playing catch up. 

"Though some departments have seen an improvement, the overall total shows that ministers simply haven't been taking this problem seriously - and that they need to act fast to drastically reduce the amount of disposable coffee cups they are buying and using. 

"We know that the vast majority of coffee cups aren't recycled - so we need a strategy in place to make sure that government departments and the House of Commons cut down on the amount they use."

The Home Office said their cups were biodegradable, while a number of departments said they run discount schemes for staff who use their own reusable cups when buying a hot drink.


It comes as it emerged more than a million disposable coffee cups and lids were used by the House of Commons last year.

A Freedom of Information request by environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage uncovered the figures, which are equivalent to 1,500 cups per MP.