NHS Scotland buys 189 million single-use plastic cups in just five years

More than 189 million single-use plastic cups have been bought by the NHS in Scotland over the past five years, it has emerged.

The cost of the plastic cups has amounted to £1.7 million since 2014 in the NHS

It means health boards are buying plastic cups the equivalent of once every second, prompting criticism of the Scottish Government’s credentials on tackling plastic waste.

Ministers say they are determined to crack down on the country’s “throwaway culture” and Zero Waste Scotland is already working with NHS chiefs to address the problem in hospitals.

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The cost of the plastic cups has amounted to £1.7 million since 2014 in the NHS, according to the figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through Freedom of Information.

The number of cups bought has remained roughly the same, with 38.6 million purchased last year alone.

Tory environment secretary Maurice Golden said ministers should seek a Scotland-wide contract for reusable cups which would help the environment and save the NHS money in the long-run.

Mr Golden said: “As ever with the SNP, it talks a good game on reducing single-use plastic, but never matches it with action.

“Under its control, health boards are buying a disposable cup every single second, costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds and damaging the environment in the process.

“An imaginative government would have designed a Scotland-wide contract to replace these with more environmentally friendly options.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the Scottish Government itself goes through a single-use plastic cup every minute, although these are now banned from its main buildings.

Iain Gulland chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland said it has been working with the NHS on a project that resulted in a significant increase in the number of reusable and recyclable cups being used.

“We are in discussions to further roll-out the scheme,” he added.

“It is vital to conserve our finite materials and the easiest way to do this is by reusing products for as long as they can before recycling them at the end of their lifecycle.”

The Scottish Government says it has already taken action on plastic cotton buds and microbeads, along with plans for a Deposit Return Scheme, which will capture up to 90% of drinks containers.

“An expert panel will advise on all aspects of Scotland’s throw-away culture with an initial area of focus on addressing the dependence on single use disposable beverage cups, an item we have already banned from the main Scottish Government buildings,” a spokesman said.