How Restaurant, Bars and Cafes can Help Reduce the World’s Plastic Pollution

By SME Insurance

Posted 16/03/18

Of the billions of tonnes of plastic made since it came in to mass use in the mid-1900s only 9% has been recycled and 12% incinerated – meaning that the vast majority of plastic ever produced is still on our planet [1]. Plastic does not biodegrade, it breaks down into smaller particles which may make their way into our oceans and food chain, creating an accumulation of plastic waste that is bad for humans, wildlife and the environment [2].

With these statistics it is unsurprising that the world is covered in plastic, from the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the oceans [3]. Research suggests that over 1 million birds and 100,000 sea mammals die every year from eating or being tangled in plastic [4], and it’s anticipated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea [5].

With the government’s proposed deposit return scheme pending, which will require consumers to pay a returnable deposit when buying cans and bottles, thinking about how to reduce plastic consumption should become a high priority for restaurants and cafes.

The good news is that attitudes can be changed – since the introduction of plastic bag tax in the UK, usage dropped by a whopping 85% [6], which has led to a 28% decrease in plastic bags found on Welsh beaches [7]. So, as the owner of a restaurant, bar or café, what could you do to help reduce plastic pollution?

Hide Straws and Plastic Cutlery

A major source of unnecessary waste is “single-use” items such as straws and plastic cutlery [8]. If your bar or restaurant currently provide straws for drinks or plastic cutlery with takeaway meals, why not withhold them unless your customers ask for them, get rid of them all together or consider replacing them with a biodegradable version?  

This is a great opportunity to get involved with community initiatives to reduce or eradicate the use of single use straws. Take the lead from campaigns such as Straw-Free Chester and Final Straw Cornwall, which are looking to stop all usage of single-use straws in their local area  and raise awareness of the potential damage to the environment .

Provide Water Refill Stations

Did you know that 1,000,000 bottled drinks are bought every minute? Schemes like Refill seek to reduce this number by encouraging business owners to allow people to refill their reusable bottles on their premises. This is an easy way to get involved with reducing plastic waste in your community. It needn’t cost you any money – you can simply leave jugs of water out for customers or make it clear that staff members are happy to refill their bottles for them. And who knows – promote yourself as a local refill point and you may find new customers coming through your doors!

Incentivise Reusable Cups

It’s estimated that in the UK we throw away the equivalent of 5000 coffee cups every minute – that’s 2.5billion a year. Styrofoam cups can take 50 years to biodegrade [9] and although many takeaway cups are now made of paper, they are often lined with plastic and it’s estimated that less than one in 400 are recycled [10]. Some of the major coffee chains now offer discounts to customers who bring in their own cups - could your business try something similar?

Food for Thought: Give Your Customers an Eco-Friendly Takeaway

If your business sells takeaway items you may need to use single-use packaging, however consider making your service more eco-friendly by using reusable or recyclable containers and actively encouraging customers to reuse them or recycle them after use. You can’t force your customers to do this, but you can think of ways to encourage customers and staff members to take the issue more seriously and do their bit to reduce plastic pollution.

What is your business doing to help prevent plastic pollution? Let us know, and make sure you let your staff and customers know too!

Sources

[1] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/

[2] https://www.britannica.com/science/plastic-pollution

[3] http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/team-cleans-up-trash-on-mount-everest/

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/18/uk-considers-tax-on-single-use-plastics-to-tackle-ocean-pollution

[5] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/18/uk-considers-tax-on-single-use-plastics-to-tackle-ocean-pollution

[7] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/30/plastic-cutlery-blighting-britains-beaches-pollution-rises-10/

[8] http://www.plasticfreechallenge.org/what-is-single-use-plastic/

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/21/uk-environment-department-using-1400-disposable-coffee-cups-a-day   

[10] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42264788

Posted 16/03/18

Author: SME Insurance

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