Plastic cups, straws and cutlery could become a thing of the past across Solihull Council after it agreed to aim to scrap the single-use items by the end of 2020.
Councillors have given unanimous backing to a concerted push against these types of throw away products, which were described as “totally unnecessary and hugely damaging to the environment”.
A motion presented by Green Party councillor Ben Groom had urged the authority to take a number of steps, including removing single-use plastic from its buildings and look at imposing stricter conditions on the food and drink vendors at council events.
Most crucially it called for an action-plan to be put in place which would seek to make the council “free” of the disposal items by the end of next year.
Solihull’s ruling Conservative group said they agreed with “the spirit” of the proposal, but amended the motion to put back the deadline by 12 months.
There was one further caveat that action to end “the purchase and procurement” of the plastics through the supply chain would be “where feasible”, with the Tories arguing that work was needed to look at the practicalities.
Introducing his motion, Cllr Groom (Smith’s Wood) argued there was an opportunity for the council “to do something great”, which would reap huge benefits for both the environment and economy.
“According to recent research eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans each year, endangering marine life,” he said.
“The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that, by 2050, the weight of plastic in the oceans will exceed that of fish.
“There is also a growing understanding of the risks posed to human health by toxic chemicals present in plastics.”
Cllr Groom said there was widespread public support for reducing usage and believed it was an issue which could cut across party lines, referencing recent comments by the Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
“I would be happy to stand alongside Conservatives in Chester, Richmond, Mendip, Birmingham and throughout the country, who have already taken this important step.
“When it matters – and this does matter – we can very easily work together for a shared common good.”
Cllr Tony Dicicco, the cabinet member for the environment and housing, said the Greens were “kicking against an open door.”
“We can lead by example and hopefully others will follow,” he said.
“I have said ‘by the end of 2020’ and ‘where feasible’ because at the moment we haven’t had chance to evaluate the issue of where we can replace single use plastics, what the cost will be, what the feasibility [is] of actually obtaining replacements in the time-scales that have been suggested.
“So we wanted to give ourselves a bit of room to actually make sure we make the right decisions and not be rushed into it.”
Cllr James Burn, leader of the Green group, said that the BBC wildlife series Blue Planet II had drawn attention to many of the problems caused by plastic.
“I think a lot of us saw that scene where an albatross fed a young chick a plastic toothpick and it then died,” he said. “It was absolutely disgusting and unbelievable.
“So I’m really pleased that across this chamber we are agreeing to take action on this.”
Concerns about single-use plastics have been growing in recent years, with the Government having previously introduced a charge on carrier bags at larger shops.
It is estimated that, worldwide, 500 billion disposal cups are sent to landfill every single year.