Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II has helped put plastic pollution high up on all our agendas, by showing us how much of it is ending up in the world’s oceans, and how much damage it’s causing our natural environment.
As a result, reducing plastic consumption, particularly from single use plastics, is a high priority for most businesses this year, and rightly so. Barely a day goes by where we’re not bombarded by another heart breaking social media image of plastic wreaking havoc on our natural environment, and having a devastating impact on our wildlife. The threat is real and we all need to take responsibility.
Big businesses are taking major steps to help tackle the plastic problem, which will in time have a big impact, but it’s not just the national brands that need to make changes. We all need to take ownership of this issue, and businesses of all sizes can really help make a difference.
Here’s a few simple steps you can introduce in your workplace to help make a difference:
Audit your waste
This is probably the least pleasant, but a very effective way of understanding what your business is consuming, and throwing away.
By emptying out your bins and recording the contents, you can begin to better understand what types and volumes of plastics are being consumed. You may need to do this regularly, and record the results, but from there you can begin to get a true understanding of your businesses consumption, and make changes in certain areas. For example, if you notice there are a lot of plastic cups from the water cooler or hot drinks machine in your bins, you could stop buying the plastic cups and either replace with a compostable alternative, or encourage staff members to bring their own reusable cups and bottles.
We all get set in our ways from time to time, and get used to a certain way of working, but if there’s an obvious area of your business that generates a lot of plastic waste, (e.g. packaging) then this is a great place to start.
Create a robust recycling system for that area of the business and set targets to reduce the waste.
Challenge your suppliers
Challenge your suppliers on what they’re supplying you with and look to replace suppliers if they’re not actively helping the cause.
• Can your suppliers move to cardboard packaging rather than plastic?
• Can you get deliveries in returnable boxes?
• Could your catering supplier use reusable plates and cups?
• Are you able to get milk in glass bottles rather than plastic?
You won’t be the only ones challenging the norm, so don’t be afraid to ask the question, strength in numbers will force change in behaviour in the long run.
What are you supplying?
Consider what your business is supplying your staff members.
• Are your mugs and glasses regularly refreshed and updated so staff are happy to use them?
• Do you offer biodegradable or refillable pens?
• Are you reusing or recycling your office equipment, letter trays, pen holders etc.
• Have you switched to compostable bin bags?
• Are you supplying staff with non-plastic packaging alternatives such as paper padded jiffy bags and recycled bubble wrap or biodegradable loose fill?
Invest in higher quality equipment that is durable and repairable. Recycle electronic equipment.
By making simple changes in your workplace, you can have a big impact on how much plastic is discarded.
Set up a green team
Empowering staff to make suggestions and changes within the business is a really effective way of ensuring the ethos resonates throughout the business. Set up a good strong team who are charged with making the business more environmentally friendly and reducing plastic consumption. Include someone from procurement on the team to ensure you’re sourcing the best products. Include a marketing expert to ensure the communication is driven throughout the business as well as being reflected externally.
Set challenges and make it fun
If you’re running a regular waste audit, you can set targets and offer incentives for hitting them. Set up inter-department competitions, run a leader board and champion good practice. Ensure you reward any progress and shout about it internally to encourage engagement across the business.