HOSPITALS across the conurbation purchased more than 8 million disposable drinking cups in the past five years.

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust confirmed it bought 5,066,600 cups between 2013 and 2018, while Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals (RBCH) NHS Foundation Trust bought 3,446,810 cups between 2013 and 2017.

These figures contributed to a total of more than 600 million cups purchased by NHS trusts across England.

The findings come amid growing concerns over the environmental impact of single-use items.

Steven Fall, Poole Hospital's sustainability officer, said: “Poole Hospital strives to be a sustainable organisation by reducing waste at every opportunity and we are committed to new recycling initiatives wherever and whenever possible.

“We work hard to ensure that our environmental footprint is as small as possible, including in our use of single use cups, and have increased the amount we recycle from 94 tonnes in 2013 to 146 tonnes last year.

“As far as possible we ensure that alternatives to disposable cups are available, while our wards use multi-use cups and crockery.

“We also encourage teams and departments to do what they can to promote a more sustainable approach to plastic use."

The oncology research team at Poole Hospital recently pledged to plastic free, and are encouraging colleagues in other services to use less plastic by asking for a voluntary donation to Poole Hospital Charity if they visit the department with a single use item.

Mr Fall added that Costa Coffee offers a 25p discount for customers who bring a reusable mug, while around the hospital new dry mixed recycling bins are currently being distributed across more areas of the trust.

Jordan Pye, RBCH's sustainably officer, said hot drinks on wards and restaurants are served in crockery, while cold drinks on the wards are served in reusable plastic beakers.

He added: "For those wanting takeaway drinks, we have recyclable cups and also offer a discount on hot drinks for those bringing their own reusable mug.

“While there is still more to be done, we are committed to continually minimising the impact of our activities on the environment and have been involved with the national Green Impact Scheme for a number of years, an environmental accreditation and awareness scheme where staff lead on changes in their own areas.

"In 2012/13 we also became ‘zero waste to landfill’, reflecting our strong commitment to protecting the environment by disposing of waste responsibly.”

Commenting on the national figures, Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: "We all know we're using far too much throwaway plastic, but these huge figures demonstrate just how out of control our relationship with single-use plastic has become.

"In the last five years the health service has used half a billion disposable cups - they can't all be captured and recycled, so it's time for the Government to step in and help suppliers find viable solutions."