Going plastic-free in the workplace can help your business make a positive impact on the environment.
While the current media coverage has been to make us aware of the individual impact of our plastic habits, we must not forget that businesses also contribute to pollution.
Going plastic-free in an organisation can have large impacts both on the people who work for the company, the customers and the community. It is more far-reaching than you can possibly imagine.
However, knowing where to start when it comes to going plastic-free in the workplace can be difficult.
There are many things we can do as individuals to reduce our consumption of single-use plastic, but for businesses, the advice has not been clearly highlighted.
An estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since the 1950s, but only 9% of it has been recycled.
As plastic pollution impacts our immediate environment, we’ve decided to reveal how you can create a plastic-free workplace.
In 2017, The Guardian reported that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.
This number is predicted to jump by another 20% by 2021.
The demand reported, is equivalent to around 20,000 water bottles being bought every second.
As an organisation, you can help in reducing this demand by banning single-use water bottles.
Many businesses have installed our Billi Taps and provided their employees with branded refillable water bottles and mugs, to help reduce the single-use plastics that enter the workplace.
In a study by the London Mayor, it was found that adults in London purchase more than three single-use water bottles per week. That’s a shocking 175 bottles every year per person.
If your workplace was to ban each person from bringing single-use plastic bottles into the office, imagine how many bottles you could save.
Plastic cutlery comes in a close second in terms of plastic pollution impact.
It’s estimated that 269,000 tons of plastic cutlery contribute to plastic pollution. Despite studies revealing that we use plastic cutlery for just three minutes before throwing it away.
Many people are unaware if cutlery can be recycled, which leaves much of the plastic in landfills or incinerated.
Swapping cutlery to reusable items in the canteen or staff kitchen is another way your workplace can go plastic-free.
We all get into the habit of grabbing a quick coffee from our favourite barista on the way to work. But in the UK we use 7 million disposable coffee cups every day. That’s 2.5 billion every year.
The office coffee habit is one that is contributing to plastic pollution. The biggest issue with disposable coffee cups is the lack of knowledge around their recyclability.
While many coffee suppliers promote that their coffee cups can be recycled, the truth is the complex way in which they are produced means the majority of coffee cups do not end up being recycled.
Less than 1% of coffee cups can currently be recycled.
If you’re looking to make a switch with impact, getting your staff to ditch their takeaway coffee to an office coffee could make a dramatic difference. Plus with a Billi hot water tap drinks can be made instantly without the need for a kettle.
Plastic packaging is the largest market for single-use plastics and now accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste generated. Most of this packaging never gets recycled.
As a business, you may order supplies or products and see this high amount of plastic packaging for yourself. Most recently, online marketplace Amazon has been critisized by customers for the amount of plastic packaging they are using.
If you’re looking to make a serious pledge against plastic pollution in your workplace, you will also need to consider your suppliers.
Talk to them about the level of plastic included in their products and come together to find a solution.
Fast-food lunches contribute to plastic pollution more than many people may be aware of.
Ready-meal packages made from black plastic is not recyclable. Due to the carbon black dye used to create the black plastic, recycling machines cannot detect the packaging. This means the black plastic goes straight into landfill or enters an incinerator.
Secondly, as reported by The Guardian, ‘lunch-on-the-go’ items such as sandwiches and packaged salads now account for 11 billion items of packaging per year.
To create a fully plastic-free workplace you have to tackle the damage of the fast-food lunch culture.
Encourage people to bring in homemade lunches, or go a step further and invest in a fully fitted kitchen so they can cook something fresh.
Workplace benefits are now a common occurrence in the workplace. But what if you created them with an environmental impact in mind?
Many of the current incentives in the workplace are to boost employee health and wellbeing. However, adding an environmental incentive shows your staff and your customers that you are serious about fighting plastic pollution.
Offer individuals a benefit or bonus if they can make changes in their lifestyle to go plastic-free.
The campaign Plastic Free July has seen 120 million participants take part around the world, showing that more people want to make the change.
Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy than burning it in an incinerator.
As offices produce a large amount of recyclable waste you must create clear recycling rules.
Even running a refresher workshop from your local council on the best practices of recycling can enable your staff to take more action.
A report by the BBC found that there are 39 different sets of rules for what can be put in a plastic recycling collection.
If you find the recycling rules within your local council confusing it may be beneficial to partner with a third-party recycler. This way, your business can guarantee where you waste is going. Providing you with a recycling footprint.
While office stationery is not a key culprit in plastic pollution, it can still build up over time.
Purchasing supplies for one individual at a time can not only be costly, but you can also have materials already in the business.
Just think about the rulers, hole-punches, plastic folders and other items that your team use. Are they all used at the same time?
To help you eliminate unnecessary purchasing of plastic products set up a centralised supply library, where people can borrow items when needed. This can make a small difference in the amount of plastic coming into the office.
Auditing how your organisation consumes plastic products is one way you can continue to look at creating a plastic-free workplace.
It’s been reported that in the UK we throw away more 300,000 tonnes of reusable furniture every year. Most of this goes into landfill or enters an incinerator.
Your business can help to reduce this waste by adopting a precycle scheme.
Whether you are looking to update your office or renovate the space, using second-hand items can go a long way in making your workplace more sustainable.
While many organisations may opt to purchase brand new furniture, this can continue to contribute to the increase in plastic consumption.
Many people think that plastic pollution is only affecting oceans in far-away places. But the impacts of plastic pollution are everywhere. Even in your local community, you may be able to see the signs of plastic pollution.
As an organisation, you can use your corporate social responsibility to support your local community in going plastic-free. This could be from a simple act of getting a team of staff to volunteer once a week to litter pick.
When it comes to a plastic-free workplace, think big. The smallest changes you make as an organisation can add up to huge changes for the world we live in.