How UK businesses can reduce plastic waste

pile of plastic bottles

How UK businesses can reduce plastic waste

From households to workplaces, people are getting serious about reducing the plastic waste in their lives

For all the benefits that plastics have given us, it feels like we’ve fallen out of love with them – especially the single-use variety like plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cutlery – and more recently, personal protective equipment like facemasks and plastic gloves. 

Documentaries like Blue Planet II and A Plastic Ocean opened our eyes to the problem while individuals, organisations and movements mobilised support to force governments to pass legislation banning single-use plastic in an effort to tackle plastic pollution.  

The problem with plastic…

pile of plastic bottles
UNSPLASH

I’m sure you’ve seen the stats, but just so we’re on the same page…

  • We produce 300 million tonnes of plastic each year
  • 50% of all the plastic made is single-use
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year
  • Over 90% of all seabirds have plastic in their stomachs
  • Only 9% of all the plastic we’ve ever produced has been recycled

Most of the conversation around reducing plastic consumption in our lives has revolved around the actions we can take as individuals. But it’s also really important for our companies to consider how they’re using plastic at the office. 

The business case for reducing plastic waste

Save money with reusables or refill options
There are items in the office that we use, throwaway and then have to replace – like ink cartridges, water bottles for client meetings, soap in the restrooms or cleaning products. Break the cycle by investing in a reusable alternative or bulk refill options and you’ll find yourself saving money over the long term.

Reduce waste disposal costs
It doesn’t matter if you’re a start-up or an established business, the processing of waste can be a significant cost. Reducing the amount of plastic you send to landfill or to the recycling centre can help you cut costs.

Protect your brand reputation
Conscientious consumers and values-driven employees care deeply about purpose and sustainability and they believe that companies have a role to play in protecting the planet. Both groups will be more loyal if you can demonstrate you’re doing what’s right.  

How to reduce plastic waste in your office

Perform a waste audit
Go room by room to document the type and volume of plastic waste generated in a given week; then start to identify ways to reduce waste, swap to reusables or avoid altogether

Create a green team
Empower your employees to find solutions, educate their peers and create fun campaigns to try to reduce waste – like taking part in Plastic Free July, a month-long challenge to reduce unnecessary plastic in your life.

UNSPLASH

Work with your suppliers
On bulk purchases, ask for plastic-free alternatives or for ways to reduce packaging when delivering items; you can also start a list of local cafes and restaurants that use cardboard packaging and bamboo utensils

Provide reusables for your staff
Make sure they have access to coffee mugs, glasses and carafes and cutlery in the kitchen; consider a gift of a reusable water bottle or takeaway mug when they’re on the go

Install a filtered water tap
If you can’t drink the tap water in your area, a filtered water tap can help you cut down on the need for plastic bottles – especially for important meetings; you can even get ones that provide hot and cold water to reduce energy usage from the kettle – double score!

Ensure a plastic-free tea break
Swap your teabags to brands that don’t contain plastic, like Brew Tea Co, We Are Tea, Teapigs, Pukka and Clipper; and if you have a coffee machine that uses individual capsules, look out for recyclable pods

UNSPLASH, GARETH HUBBARD

One final note, if you are a manufacturer that creates and ships a product, make sure you’re considering the entire product lifecycle and that you’re designing with the end in mind. Look for ways to remove unnecessary plastic along the way, reduce excess packaging and give your customers options for how they can dispose or recycle the product in a way that is planet friendly.