National Trust shops and cafes to go plastic free

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 5 April 2018

The National Trust has said it is phasing out single-use plastics from its shops and cafes by 2022.

Studland National Trust Cafe
© Dave Morton

We’ve worked with the Trust during our Great British Beach Clean for a number of years and know how committed they are to keeping UK coastlines clean and plastic free.

Mike Crossley,
MCS Director of Marketing and Fundraising

The charity, which looks after more than 500 historic properties, 775 miles of coastline and more than 600,000 acres of countryside, said it was committed to cutting down on waste.

It says all its shops will be free of single-use plastics and all throwaway plastic bottles will be removed from its cafes by 2022. The Trust says that by the end of this year, plastic bottles will have been swapped for glass containers in all of its sit-down cafes.

The Trust says it is also investigating the alternatives for single-use plastics in plant nurseries and garden sales areas at its properties.

MCS has been highlighting the steady rise of single-use plastics - from drinks bottles to food wrappers and cotton bud sticks to carrier bags- on UK beaches for the last 25 years. Data from its annual Great British Beach Clean has been instrumental in the introduction of the plastic carrier bag charge, the ban on microbeads and the announcements of the introduction of deposit return schemes for beverage containers in Scotland and England.

Concern about plastic waste has also risen in the wake of the BBC’s Blue Planet II series, which further highlighted the harm plastic waste causes to wildlife in the world’s oceans.

Mike Crossley, MCS Director of Marketing and Fundraising, welcomed the announcement from the National Trust: “We’ve worked with the Trust during our Great British Beach Clean for a number of years and know how committed they are to keeping UK coastlines clean and plastic free.

“The phasing out of single-use plastics from Trust shops and cafes is another step forward in helping reduce the amount of plastic litter reaching our seas and I’d hope the action will be welcomed, and copied, by many of its five million members. With plastic pollution so high on everyone’s agenda, we would urge them to try and phase out their single–use plastics before 2022 if at all possible, as this issue really is time critical.”

The National Trust said it had already taken a number of steps to reduce the impact of plastics at its properties.

They include replacing all disposable food and drink packaging with fully biodegradable alternatives made from recycled and plant-based materials, and launching a pilot to make reusable and biodegradable hot drinks cups available from its 343 cafes.

The Trust said it also provided free drinking water as standard in its cafes and tea rooms, had removed single-use plastic bags from its 275 shops and moved to reusable plant pots and trays where it sells garden goods.

The charity has also switched the wrapping on the magazine it sends to members from plastic to a potato starch wrap that can be composted at home.

Lizzy Carlyle, head of environmental practices at the National Trust, said: “As an organisation committed to creating and maintaining a healthy and more beautiful natural environment, we are committed to using every opportunity to minimise our use of non-renewable resources and cut down our waste.

“The impact single-use plastics have on the natural world is particularly alarming.

“Our latest focus has been on how we can eliminate the use of single-use plastic in our 343 cafes and tea rooms, whilst ensuring that any disposable packaging we do use has as little impact on the environment as possible.”

“As well as removing plastic that is harmful to wildlife and humans, beach cleans also help to make the shoreline look more appealing, raise awareness of the problem and encourage action to reduce plastic use,” said Lizzy Carlyle.

“The damage caused by plastics is a complex, global issue. “We’re working with suppliers to come up with solutions to the plastic problem, and in the meantime, are doing all that we can to find innovative ways of reducing the impact of our own operations and investigating new ways of doing more,” she added.

The charity has worked with MCS to put on Great British Beach Clean events in recent years as many of the Trust’s properties are adjacent to beaches. The Trust is also planning a number of beach cleans over the coming months.

The MCS Good Fish Guide team has been working with the National Trust on its seafood policy to ensure it doesn’t serve any red rated fish in its cafes and restaurants.

Do you want to help stop the plastic tide? We are currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

Actions you can take

  1. Help us stop the plastic tide
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019

Did you know?…

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces

To date, our beach cleans have removed over 11 million pieces of litter

Every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes