Network Rail to ban sale of plastic cutlery and cups in UK stations

Network Rail to ban sale of plastic cutlery and cups in UK stations
London's Euston is one of 20 UK stations operated by Network Rail © Wei-Te Wong

The UK’s Network Rail has announced plans to ban the sale of plastic cutlery and cups in its train stations by 2020, as part of broader European efforts to transition away from single-use plastics.

In addition to banning the sale of plastic cutlery and cups by 2020, the company will also implement a recycling scheme for paper coffee cups, to decrease the amount of waste produced in Network Rail-managed stations in some of the UK’s largest cities.

Currently, more than 20m coffee cups are sold in Network Rail’s station each year, alongside more than four million bottles of water. Already, a total of 94% of Network Rail’s waste is diverted from landfill, and in light of Europe’s wider plastics strategy and commitments from many UK companies to combat waste from single-use plastics, these further efforts could stand to make a significant impact.

How will Network Rail replace plastics?

In advance of the upcoming ban on the sale of plastic cutlery and cups, Network Rail has also launched a recent initiative to install free water fountains in its stations. By allowing passengers to freely refill their water bottles, the company hopes to increase the number of people reusing their containers.

Free water fountains have been installed in London, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester stations, and Network Rail has estimated that these have saved up to 1,000 plastic bottles per week.

In addition to this project, Network Rail has written to the 150 retail brands which operate in its 20 UK stations, and plans to work alongside these companies to develop viable alternatives to plastic cutlery and cups.

What are Network Rail’s objectives for the ban?

David Biggs, managing director of Network Rail Property, explained that the company was pursuing its ambition to be more sustainable with the new policy: “By the end of 2020, our goal is that the retailers at our managed stations will no longer provide plastic cutlery or cups. We want to be a leader in sustainability and we feel that [our projects] show a real commitment to change, and recognition of our responsibility to protect the environment.”

He added that he anticipated the opportunity to work alongside Network Rail’s commercial partners to achieve this: “We’ve been inspired by the many retailers that are already taking important steps to find solutions to this widespread problem, and now we want to work alongside our retail partners to create an even bigger impact.”

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