Last month the EU Parliament announced a ban on single-use plastic items from 2021. In light of this, our Senior Account Manager Charlotte Turner shares 5 things for businesses to think about now to reduce plastic in the workplace.
The EU Parliament will be introducing a ban on single-use plastic items across the European Union – including straws, plates and cutlery – in a bid to save our oceans from plastic pollution. This is a welcome move, as the scale of the ocean plastic crisis has reached horrifying heights – with predictions stating that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.
The new legislation does not cover every type of plastic product, but companies and individuals need to start thinking about making real change now to be ahead of the curve when further legislation is introduced – and, frankly, because plastic pollution is a global epidemic that we all need to address.
Here are some simple ideas for reducing plastic use at work:
1. Think about procurement
Incorporate considerations for plastic use within your procurement processes for all items that your business buys. Whether you’re ordering tea and coffee for employees in HQ, or the packaging that your customers receive their items in, consider the environmental impact of all goods and services procured.
Request information regarding the reusability and recyclability of materials and packaging as part of the tender process, and evaluate this as part of award criteria to make sure that office supplies (including stationary, kitchen and bathroom goods) don’t come in unnecessary plastic packaging, and look for alternatives to plastic for products in general.
That said, don’t replace plastic products with an alternative that is no better for the environment. For instance, widely recyclable plastic may be better than the ‘biodegradable’ plastic alternatives (like Vegware) that require specific conditions in order to degrade, which the end consumer might not have access to.
2. Use proper crockery, cutlery and glasswear
For the kitchen or canteen, provide employees, guests and customers with real plates and cutlery rather than plastic or paper throwaways.
Encourage team members to bring in leftovers from home or take bowls from the kitchen to the local deli for lunch instead of buying ready meals wrapped in disposable plastic (this is what we do here at Eco-Age). For leftovers, there are also great alternatives to things like clingfilm – for example Beeswax wraps. You could also keep a cupboard full of tuppawear for employees to borrow for their leftovers (we also do this at Eco-Age).
3. Ban plastic bottles and straws
Impose your own ban on single-use plastic bottles and straws in your office to encourage employees to bring in refillable and reusable items. You could even consider gifting employees with keep cups and reusable water bottles like the FA Group, who with their waste partner Veolia have given out reusable water bottles and coffee cups to all of their employees.
4. Avoid plastic hangers
Plastic hangers are lower quality and will just contribute to plastic pollution. Consider lower impact options such as FSC certified wood (see Arch & Hook). This matters for lots of companies – even if you don’t display products on hangers, there’s a good chance you have some in your cloakroom for when guests visit.
5. Break the habit
A lot of the time we buy products that we don’t actually need based on habit, when we could swap them for other more easily recyclable or sustainable solutions. Explore alternatives for commonly used plastic products, such as plastic folders in your office, and ask the following questions: do you really need them to be plastic? What purpose do they serve? Do they have to be plastic to fulfil particular performance requirements (for example being see-through)? Or are products just chosen based on habit? If the answer to the last question is yes, it might be time to make a change.
See more tips for building a sustainable business…and getting recognised for it.
Read more about the EU plastic ban and what the UK Budget 2018 means for the plastic pollution pandemic.