Biffa, which provides household refuse and recycling collections, street and beach cleansing, and bring banks management for Cornwall Council, is among the first of the authority’s contractors to back its commitment to be free of single-use plastic items in two years.

The council will, wherever possible, phase out all single-use plastic cups and lids, plastic bottles, plastic-lined cardboard and any other single-use plastics from its entire estate by 2020. Businesses working with the council are urged to implement similar policies.

Biffa’s operation in Cornwall, which employs 480 staff, has already begun phasing out single-use plastic materials at its six depots. Every member of staff has been given a multi-use, refillable metal water bottle, so potentially removing at least 25,000 single-use plastic water bottles annually. Biffa has given hundreds more refillable bottles to community groups across Cornwall as part of the county’s ReFILL initiative (#ReFILLCornwall).

The contractor’s personnel are also being given refillable travel mugs for coffee and tea, which potentially removes an estimated 10,000 plastic cups from dispensing points at Biffa’s depots. Purchases of disposable cutlery and plates and condiment sachets are being halted, so cutting an estimated 2,000 cutlery and crockery items and 2,000 sauce sachets annually. They will be replaced with paper plates, wooden cutlery, and glass sauce bottles.

According to Nigel Carr, Biffa’s general manager in Cornwall, the company is setting an example for others by not just committing to the authority’s policy, but by acting on it.

“As the first of Biffa’s municipal operations in the UK to start cutting back on single-use plastics, Cornwall’s actions provide a practical template for other Biffa depots and contracts,” he said. “I expect our sites in Cornwall to be largely free of these single-use items by the end of March.”