This month is Plastic Free July, an initiative to raise awareness of the problems associated with single use plastic items #choosetorefuse.
Plastics don’t break down and will cause problems for hundreds of years to come. Who can ignore the increasing problems caused by waste plastic – the pictures of whales starving to death as their stomachs are full of plastic bags, birds and turtles stuck in the plastic packaging for tins and the plastic molecules that are eaten by plankton, which then become part of the food chain, ending up on our plates. Would you willingly and knowingly eat plastic?
As consumers we can influence manufacturers and opt for less packaging. But what can we do in the workplace to minimise the amount of plastic used. The less we demand, the less that will be created, so perhaps the most powerful influence is our wallet.
The first thing is to do a waste audit – if you are throwing away or recycling plastic in your workplace, you are paying for it. Therefore, it makes economic sense to try to reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate in the first place.
Before they are emptied, go through your bins and see what percentage of your waste is plastic – this should give you a good idea of how much money you can save by avoiding plastic in your workplace.
Encourage your workplace to ditch plastic drinks bottles. If they are filled with water, suggest they bring a reusable bottle and fill it up from the tap or water fountain – they will also save money. If fizzy drinks or flavoured drinks is more their style, then suggest they buy tins instead of plastic bottles – aluminium can be recycled multiple times, whereas plastic can only be reused once. If you have vending machines on site, stock only tins and place recycling bins alongside.
When it comes to food, encourage everyone to bring in something from home in a reusable container instead of cling film which will be thrown away. Cling film can’t be recycled and ends up in landfill or the incinerator.
If you are buying sandwiches, choose freshly made ones from a bakery that don’t come in plastic packaging. If you are taking in ready meals from home – can you buy the largest pack and decant it into smaller ones? One large packet makes less waste than 5 small ones.
Waitrose have developed a cardboard sandwich pack with a peelable plastic label, meaning that the wrapper can be detached and the main part of the packaging recycled http://fdiforum.net/mag/waitrose-sustainable-packaging-first/. When buying pre-prepared food, make sure you can recycle the packaging.
If you are a food producer or supplier, avoid plastic cutlery and coated disposable plates – choose bamboo and paper plates that will break down. Avoid single use plastic cups. Food manufacturers – can you come up with packaging that will be reused or that will degrade easily?
I have signed up to the plastic free July – http://www.plasticfreejuly.org and during the month will be exploring ways in which I can reduce the amount of plastic I generate and seeing what alternatives are available. #choosetorefuse