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Single-use plastics banned from events on Cambridge City Council land

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Single-use plastics have been banned from future events on Cambridge City Council land – but not at events sponsored by the authority.

A motion from the Liberal Democrats was presented by Cllr Katie Porrer (Market) at a full council meeting last Thursday (October 21) calling for the authority to commit to end the use of single-use plastics at events.

Plastic litter
Plastic litter

Cllr Porrer told her fellow councillors how the motion came about after she attended an event on city council land and was “horrified” by the amount of single use plastic cups being used and thrown away.

She said: “There were no separate rubbish collections signed, no apparent separation of waste streams as food was being collected in the same bags as everything else, and nothing to remind people that they could use their own cups.

“And all I could see were hundreds and hundreds of these cups and glasses, all apparently virgin plastic, being used for a few minutes and then dumped.

“I actually brought my trusty bamboo cup the next day and must have been the only person there drinking a cocktail out of a tea cup, which I was proud to do as at least it may have prompted some people to consider why I was doing it.”

Cllr Porrer said the city council “must show leadership” on the issue and “lead by example”.

The motion also called for clearly signed recycling facilities on site or confirmation that these would be sorted off site and for bins to be made available for compostable waste.

An amendment was proposed by Cllr Alex Collis (Lab, King’s Hedges) and passed by the Labour-run council to remove the commitment to end the use of single use plastic at events that are sponsored or supported by the city council, but held on sites for which it is not responsible.

Cllr Collis, the executive councillor for open spaces, sustainable food and community wellbeing, said the amendment aimed to “tighten up some of the specifics” and add some national context.

But she said the motion was “based on principles” all of the councillors ‘could get behind’.

“I think we are all aware of the dangers and issues of plastic pollution. There’s a lot of will to tackle this issue,” she said. “You might ask what can one city, or a smallish district council like ours, do to counteract change on such a catastrophic scale.

“There’s actually quite a lot that we can do. It is a big global issue, but small changes can be positive too.”

She said there was an aim to “further strengthen” the motion by instructing council officers to monitor and advise on best practice that is being developed by the government, and said the council “should be leading the way”.

She said: “Plastic pollution is too important of an issue for any of us to ignore.”

Plastic litter
Plastic litter

The amended motion was approved by the city council.

Afterwards, Cllr Porrer said: “This marks a huge step forward for the council and allows us to show a real example on this important issue for the planet. As a council we must promote the benefits of reuse and recycling, and move away from a throw-away approach. How can we ask businesses and local residents to do this if we are not doing it ourselves at the council?”

Cllr Porrer said she regretted that the ruling Labour group watered down the motion by removing the commitment to extend the ban to events sponsored or supported by the council on sites for which it was not responsible.

She said: “This is certainly a disappointment, but today I’m seeing the positive. I am very pleased to have brought about a big step forward and I will fight for the rest in the future.”

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