Reducing your plastic consumption as a business
You need only take a look in front of you to know how prominent plastic is in its role in everyday life. Be it in your office or at home, there’s sure to be a plastic bottle, food container or another object made of single-use plastic in your immediate vicinity. No matter where you are, you can’t avoid it.
With great amounts of plastic comes great amounts of waste. If you want to reduce how much plastic you use, however, there’s no need to fear. You’re about to learn some simple methods with which you can stay on top of, that can help your business evolve in this eco-conscious climate.
#1 – Waste Audit
Before you can dispose of it, you need to know where your waste comes from and the amount produced. Many businessmen use The Art of War by Sun Tzu as a guide for business strategies. One thing taught within it is that to defeat your enemy, you must first know them. If you know where your plastic comes from, you can learn how to reduce it effectively.
Deduction can be key to narrowing things down. If you find out what kind of waste is being produced most, you can then find out when and where it’s happening. When everything is linked together, you’ll be able to find the main cause of your plastic problem and be able to come up with a solution.
A waste audit is best separated into four major steps for a consistent analysis:
- Plan which area of your company the study will be conducted on.
- Carefully collect the waste from the area and determine what type of waste is there. If trying to find a specific type of waste (in this case, plastic), make sure all those are knowledgeable of this and only collect the designated waste. Having a practice audit before this can be useful.
- Sort the waste for the types and amount being produced.
- Take notes to analyse the waste data and produce a diagnosis of what needs to be changed.
#2 – Reuse
First, a quick question – Do you buy plastic cups for your business in bulk? If so, you’re unintentionally contributing hugely to the huge amounts of plastic waste on the earth. Nobody needs to be an expert to know that in a company where all the staff only drink from plastic cups, your plastic waste will be sky-high.
Of course, it’s unhygienic to just reuse plastic disposable cups. This is why plenty of companies opt to have their employees carry their own personal water bottle to refill when necessary. If not, it’s easy to advertise a “bring your own mugs” policy, and just as easy to buy a few mugs for the whole workplace to use.
On the subject of drinks, straws can also be a major concern when it comes to producing large amounts of waste. Unlike with plastic cups, straws can prove troublesome to recycle and thereby become a major problem to the environment. You can reduce your plastic waste significantly simply by telling your staff not to use plastic straws and, if necessary, switch to paper or biodegradable ones that are a lot better for the environment.
As long as you encourage those working for you to use one container for their drinks instead of constantly using disposable cups, this alone will show a great difference in the amount of plastic produced.
#3 – Three Ts
What three Ts are we discussing here? That would be the leading plastic waste in the office- toiletries, tea bags and takeaways.
No matter what, a company will always need toiletries (unless you want a very unhappy workforce). It can be quite an inconvenience when trying to reduce waste when so many of these items come in plastic, but there are alternatives out there.
There are plenty of plastic-free toilet rolls available online (we recommend https://uk.whogivesacrap.org/ as they have a subscription service- and donate half of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world!) , and a quick Google search of the items you need will provide you with a huge number of options.
Next, there’s tea bags. Whilst the British love affair with tea can be seen as a stereotype, there’s no smoke without fire. Statistics show that the United Kingdom consistently appears as one of the world’s top tea drinking countries, and 96% of tea here is made in tea bags.
Despite it not being obvious, standard tea bags contain around 25% plastic in them to keep the bag sealed when in water. Because of this, tea bags aren’t compostable.
Fortunately, you can keep tea bags without losing in terms of money or your fight against waste. Like most approaches to going green, it only requires switching to an alternative – pyramid silk bags being a notable option, or finding other biodegradable options through research.
Finally, let’s talk about takeaway waste. Everyone buys food, and most of the time, the materials used in the food industry can’t be recycled due to the grease or other stains made by the food placed within them.
Because of this, it’s important for workers selling food to speak to their suppliers and ask to see if any biodegradable or environmentally friendly packaging are available. If your business is a café, bakery or similar, putting in place a policy of asking customers to bring their own containers can take a lot of responsibility off your shoulders- or (if you’re scared of turning away customers) you could also offer a reward system or discount for those who do in order to encourage it.
One major innovation can be seen in the takeaway delivery company Deliveroo, who offer biodegradable, compostable and other environmentally friendly packaging for takeaway meals.
For those not in the food industry, food packaging waste can still be a major problem when it comes to employees visiting takeaways on their lunch break. Encouraging staff to bring in food from home, or even just ensuring you have the facilities for staff to make their own food at work can go a long way.
Once you’re following these steps, you can watch your business’s plastic waste numbers drop by the time your next waste audit is conducted!