5 Tips for Reducing Reliance on Single-Use Plastics
In recent years, the focus on protecting the environment and leading a more sustainable lifestyle (both personally and professionally) has become more apparent. It’s not uncommon to see daily news stories commenting on environmental issues, from oil spills to weather disasters and everything in between. As the negative impact humans are having on the planet becomes more apparent, we are becoming more environmentally aware in all areas of our life, and it’s no surprise that much of the newest entrants to the workplace, Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2010), expect their employers to take action to protect the environment. Recent research has shown that the current generation of young people entering the workforce are even more environmentally conscious than the Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995) that preceded them.
A particularly hot topic at the moment is the use of single use plastics. A recently proposed ban on single-use plastics by the European Union is expected to help avoid over 3 million tonnes of carbon emissions and save consumers billions of pounds, as well as preventing environmental damage. A recent survey found that 80% of Generation Z think that tackling the use of single-use plastics is more of an important goal for their employers than reducing electricity and water consumption or reducing greenhouse gases.
But what can we actually do to help reduce the amount of single-use plastics? Read on to find out.
Single Use Plastics – What Are They?
Single-use or disposable plastics are only used once before they’re thrown away or recycled. Single-use plastics are everywhere, and most of us rely on the convenience of single-use plastic products every day. Plastic bags, straws, takeaway coffee cups, food packaging and water bottles are all examples of single-use plastics. Half of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced each year is disposable, but only around 10-13% of plastic items are recycled.
What’s The Problem?
The problem comes from the huge amount of single-use plastics that aren’t recycled. Often, these plastics are petroleum based and will go straight into a landfill after we throw them away. Petroleum based plastics are not biodegradable, and whilst they may eventually break down into small particles, the process releases toxic chemicals, and these chemicals, along with the small plastic particles, then make their way into our food and water supply, and damage our environment in the process. The first step to addressing our plastic problem is being aware that it’s there in the first place, so the more awareness is raised, the more people will get involved.
What Can I Do To Help?
On a personal level, there are plenty of small changes that will help reduce how much you rely on single-use plastics. Take reusable bags to the supermarket, carry a sports bottle with you instead of buying a bottle of water each day, invest in a reusable takeaway coffee cup instead of relying on a throwaway plastic one for your morning latte (this not only helps reduce plastic use, but some retailers even offer discounts for using your own cup).
What Can My Workplace Do To Help?
More and more workplaces in the UK are introducing sustainability initiatives, including limiting (or stopping) the use of single-use plastics. Earlier in 2018, over 40 major businesses in the UK signed a pact to eliminate the use of single-use plastics by 2025. The aim is for 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable. Combined, the signatories of the pact are collectively responsible for more than 80% of the UK’s supermarket plastic packaging (click here to read more). Similarly, the City of London Corporation’s new initiative, Plastic Free City, is aimed at businesses, workers and residents in the City of London, offering resources to help reduce reliance on unnecessary single-use plastics.
Here are 5 top tips for reducing single-use plastics in the workplace:
- Remove single-use coffee cups – Removing single-use takeaway cups completely from the office. Instead, provide mugs or reusable cups for your employees
- Offer filtered water – By providing filtered water, staff no longer need to buy a plastic bottle of water each day, they can bring their own sports bottle and refill in the office. (Check out TopWater)
- Get rid of straws – Straws are one of the most discarded single-use plastic items. If your team are hesitant to eliminate them, provide paper straws instead
- Introduce biodegradable alternatives – Not all plastics are bad. Some are biodegradable (which means they will decompose completely). Some items are commonly single-use (for example; cutlery, coffee stirrers, straws, napkins), so making the change to either a biodegradable plastic or biodegradable material (such as wood) can put an end to massive amounts of plastic waste.
- Provide branded reusable items – If budget allows, branded reusable products are a great way to reduce plastic consumption whilst also helping to establish a clear brand identity. If staff are able to take these products out of the workplace (for example, using reusable coffee cups whilst out and about), it can also help increase brand awareness.
Many of our TopBrewer clients have chosen to introduce sustainability initiatives, and they have seen some great results. Banking and asset management group, Investec, provide branded reusable coffee cups for their employees, and no longer offer any kind of disposable cup. QBE Insurance Group go through thousands of disposable cups per month, so chose to make the change to fully recyclable cups to reduce the amount of plastic being thrown away.