Top tips for reducing plastic in the workplace
22nd November 2019
Being an environmentally friendly business sends out a message to customers and staff that you care. It shows you have morals and ethics, and are willing to make changes to help a cause external to your business’ needs. One of the biggest ways you can make your business more environmentally friendly is to reduce the amount of plastic used.
Big businesses have already recognised the importance of their role in helping to reduce plastic, with stores such as IKEA introducing plastic bans which will come into effect in the next few years. Waitrose has set a target to eliminate single-use plastic, and already offers reuse and refill schemes in some of its stores, including its Oxford branch where customers can fill their own containers with pasta, beer and frozen fruit. While food chains including McDonald’s have introduced paper straws to replace plastic versions.
An estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, and only nine per cent has been recycled. Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
As businesses, we have a responsibility to play our part when it comes to plastic reduction. Here are our top ways you can reduce plastic in the workplace.
Arrange for someone to give a talk about plastic
Inspire staff to reduce their own plastic use by organising a talk about the impact of plastic on the environment. Maybe you have someone in the workplace who is already passionate about this who could prepare a talk and presentation, or you could invite someone in externally. Alternatively, there are numerous documentaries and films made on the subject which could be screened at work. This will hopefully motivate staff to get on board with any plastic reduction ideas that are implemented. You will need them to play their part and any new initiatives are more likely to be successful if staff feel involved, informed and inspired.
Organise a litter pick
This is a great way to not only give back to the local community in which your office is based, but also boost the wellbeing of staff and help the environment. Any plastics found which are recyclable can be filtered out, saving them from possible landfill. Plastic which is potentially harmful to wildlife will be removed and won’t look unsightly strewn across the streets or countryside. To add to this, staff will be getting exercise and fresh air, which is beneficial for all of us. There will be the added benefit of those involved being able to socialise with each other whilst out, and feel good about doing something to help the community.
As a business, you will be sending a positive message to staff, customers and the community that you care about the area in which you are based. Why not contact the local media to see if they would like to report on what you are doing and why, to spread your message even further and promote your business in a positive light?
Provide filtered tap water
In the UK a staggering 7.7 billion plastic bottles are used each year, with the average person using 150 every year. Many are discarded and end up polluting our rivers and seas. Offer filtered tap water for staff to drink instead, which can be easily provided by putting a filter on a tap. Encourage staff to use reusable water bottles to fill up, or just drink from glasses or cups.
Offer reusable cutlery, plates and cups in the canteen
Many staff canteens will offer takeaway options putting food in plastic containers. Some offer this for all food, even that eaten in the canteen. Whilst this might be convenient for those wanting to eat outside or at their desk, it’s not environmentally friendly, and it definitely isn’t necessary for those eating in the canteen. Invest in reusable items, even if that means changes need to be made to work out how it will all be washed up. For those looking to take food away, offer an incentive discount for bringing their own containers.
Encourage staff to joint buy and buy in bulk
Do you have a cupboard full with dozens of tea and coffee supplies? Each one bought by an individual will include plastic packaging. If staff are bringing in their own teas and coffees, encourage them to buy collectively and in bulk to reduce the amount of plastic used.
Supply staff with reusable items
If you really want to show staff you are committed to saving the planet and reducing plastic, why not buy everyone reusable gifts? If you have a budget for gifts to reward hitting sales targets, for example, or on people’s birthdays, instead of a bottle of wine or box of chocolates, give them something reusable such as a water bottle, lunchbox or beeswax wrap.
Encourage teams to come up with their own ways to reduce plastic
This is a great way to involve staff in your pledge to reduce plastic in the workplace. Staff may know better than management how they can reduce plastic, or they might come up with some innovative ways that haven’t been thought of. Passing over some of the responsibility to staff shows you value their input and ideas. Any new initiatives are more likely to be met with enthusiasm if staff have been involved in their implementation, rather than being dictated to.
Many companies are now considering the impact of packaging on the environment and are doing what they can to reduce plastic use. Shop around and see if you could switch suppliers to one which is more environmentally friendly. If you do make a switch, be sure to let your old supplier know why, as it may encourage them to change. Alternatively, if a switch doesn’t work in terms of costs, you could always request less plastic packaging.
Share your success to inspire others
If you use social media as a business, then shout about your plastic reduction ideas and let everyone know what you are doing. Not only will it present a positive image of your business to a wider audience, it may inspire other businesses to follow suite.
Create a plastic-free snack station
From chocolate bars to crisps, most snacks come in individually wrapped plastic packaging. Why not set up a plastic free snack station at the office, with reusable containers to store everything? Buying in bulk will reduce the amount of waste, or you could even buy from an environmentally friendly retailer offering plastic free refills. Snacks such as dried fruit, bread sticks and fruit will keep staff fuelled throughout the day, and are much healthier than individually wrapped alternatives such as chocolate.