With the Government’s environment plan setting out measures to reduce plastic waste over the next 25 years, we asked a range of people how businesses can make a positive contribution by tackling the ‘throwaway culture’ and encouraging a more environmentally friendly workplace.
Darren Bland, Managing Director of DJB Recycling
It doesn’t matter what you do, or where you work, there’s just no running-away from plastic waste. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to lessen your business’s environmental impact, and even improve your level of cost-effectiveness.
If you really want to make your company more “green,” the first thing you should do is rethink your priorities… because whilst the idea of recycling plastic might sound good in principle, a lot of people don’t realise that the continued use of plastic rapidly leads to a downgrade in its quality.
In fact, a single piece of plastic can be recycled twice – maybe three times at a push. Overall, this means that only about 30-40% of scrap plastic recovered can be saved from the landfill.
That’s assuming the plastic can even be recycled. Coffee cups for example are very difficult to reuse due to the combination of materials used in their production, and any plastic can be rejected if it hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned.
A better first step would be to complete a waste audit, which will give you a great starting point by identifying exactly how much waste you produce, where it’s coming from and what you can do about it.
You’ll probably find a lot of plastic comes from convenience. Plastic straws for one are an issue that’s gained a lot of bad reputation over the past year, and rightly so – the UK goes through around 8.5 billion of them a year.
Likewise, stocking up on water bottles and disposable cups might make the staff kitchen a lot tidier, but it dramatically increases the amount of plastic in the bin.
Just consider the minor changes you can make which have a far-reaching impact. Stock the office kitchen with only bio-degradable straws. Replace hands soap bottles with refillable dispensers, or bars of soap.
Providing all your staff with reusable bottles will not only help the environment, but it’ll save cash in the long-term by reducing the monthly outgoings.
Even the hot-drinks round might seem completely harmless, but most teabags are made up of around 25% plastic. Admittedly, loose leaf tea isn’t as practical for most people, but there are a whole host of companies which produce more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Of course, for certain industries there is no avoiding large quantities of waste, but even this issue can be diminished by using a recycling baler – which compacts cardboard, paper and plastics into small “bales” for easy transportation and resale.
Really, it’s all just a matter of remembering the unwritten rule to avoiding plastic waste: record, reduce, replace, refuse, refill, rethink and reuse.