Your plastic waste problem

Red, Orange and Green recycling bins lined up against a flowered wall

Your plastic waste problem

How we use and dispose of plastics makes up a core part of our business’s sustainability initiatives. Here’s what you need to know…

Red, Orange and Green recycling bins lined up against a flowered wall
UNSPLASH, HAMZA JAVAID

What is a plastic policy?

Similar to a business’s sustainability policy, which outlines how the business will operate responsibly and ethically in the marketplace, a plastics policy sets out how a business will tackle the use and disposal of plastics throughout its operations. 

This should be short and to the point, so aim for one page with four key elements: 

Introduction
This is where you’ll set out the overall aim of the policy and how it ties in with your wider sustainability actions. This is where you can link your initiatives to the relevant Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nation. Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and Goal 14 (Life Below Water) are two that may be applicable.

Commitments
What are your specific goals around plastic use and how it’s disposed of? How will you use technological innovations, education and partnerships to help you achieve your overall objective? 

Actions
Can you identify specific ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the plastic that is in your organisation? Is there the opportunity to redesign systems or processes to strip plastic out? How will you collaborate with your employees and suppliers? 

Responsibility
Who will take ownership of the document and the initiative? When will the document be reviewed and updated?

Plastic waste facts

pile of plastic bottles
UNSPLASH, TANVI SHARMA

Plastic has quickly become part of our daily lives and has a wide range of positive uses. But when there are reusable or plastic-free alternatives available, that plastic becomes problematic and unnecessary. In addition, plastic is made from fossil fuels, which is so heavily subsidised that it’s often cheaper to make new plastic than it is to recycle existing items. 

When plastic escapes into the natural environment, it damages wildlife and ecosystems. And the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels to produce more plastic is contributing to the increase in global greenhouse gas emissions and the increase in global temperature rises. 

Here are the big picture facts

  • We produce 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, 99% of which is made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels
  • 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

Plastic waste in the UK

The average amount of waste generated per person in the UK is around 409 kg – that’s around 900 pounds of waste in one year.

They found that figure is ‘mostly made up of food scraps, newspapers, cardboard, glass bottles and plastics’. While UK households recycle around 45%, that’s primarily paper and cardboard, metal and glass. 

Two-thirds of plastic waste is sent abroad because of the cost, and as developing countries refuse to take it, more is being incinerated. But when it escapes the system, it ends up in our waterways and coastlines. 

Surfers Against Sewage have found that approximately 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK. And over 150 plastic bottles litter each mile of UK beaches.

How to reduce plastic waste at work

Coffee cup and reusable water bottle on a desk
UNSPLASH

The good news is that we can take action to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives – both in our homes and at the office. 

Run a waste audit: The goal is to identify the type and volume of plastic waste you generate and to find ways to reduce waste, swap to reusables or avoid the items altogether

Empower your employees: Share your goals for reducing plastic within the company and get everyone involved in finding solutions to cut down or swap out problematic plastic

Make your suppliers part of the solution: Look for plastic-free alternatives to the items you regularly order and ask what the options are for reducing packaging during delivery

Choose to reuse: The kitchen is the obvious place to ensure you have reusable coffee mugs, glasses, carafes and cutlery; and look into installing a filtered water tap that provides hot and cold water to reduce energy usage from the kettle

Buy in bulk: From snacks to cleaning supplies, buying in bulk can not only reduce the plastic packaging, it can help save you money too; and be sure to look for refill options too