Small Steps Your Business Can Take to Minimise its Impact on the Environment & Prepare for the Progressive Shift to an Eco-Conscious Population.
PART ONE OF THREE
The news of the Lib Dems calling for a ban on all single-use plastics (SUP) within three years poses a bold question for all UK businesses: how would your operation cope with such a law? With the recent plastic bag levy, it’s not unlikely that this law will be passed!
I’ve put together a few quick thoughts on how you can work towards lowering your impact on the environment, whether you already have well-established environmental policies or are late to the game.
1 million birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die every year from ingesting plastic and becoming tangled in plastic waste (source: www.kimointernational.org). The European Commission has put proposals forward to the European Parliament and Council for adoption of new rules to tackle 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.
Early this year, Country Living writer Kate Langrish accepted a challenge to live a week plastic-free in the countryside. Here is a quote from her write up, “Leaving packaging at the checkout is one of the clearest ways of letting supermarkets know that their customers want change." This year, UK supermarkets suffered a public backlash against the high volumes of plastic rubbish that is created from a typical weekly shop. Some major supermarkets signed up to support the UK plastic pact as they reacted to the escalating shift in behaviour, recognising that our “throw-away” culture needs to change.
Here are some ideas to aid you in your mission to eliminate single-use plastics within your organisation.
Communicate with Your Suppliers
Reducing single-use plastic produced by suppliers will be challenging but as the demand for alternatives to plastic increases, so will the pressure on these suppliers as well as your own organisation. Don’t be afraid to ask, many suppliers are already adjusting to this shift in behaviour.
Reusable Water Bottles
Ditch single-use water bottles in the office and switch to a water cooler paired with stainless steel branded bottles for your staff. Not only will you be setting a great example for your employees to follow but you will also be encouraging hydration, which we all know improves health and productivity in the workplace.
Buy Your Staff a Bag
Reusable bags are all the rage now but people still get caught out without one. Provide staff with bags they can use when they nip to the shops during their lunch break.
Corporate Branded Reusable Mugs
Treat your staff to some reusable travel and desk mugs with a message promoting your brand’s environmental principles internally. We throw away 2.5 billion coffee cups a year in the UK, with the majority making their way to landfill. I recently heard about a company switching to reusable mugs after it was assessed that they went through 100,000 single-use plastic cups a day – their savings are huge. Reusable cups and travel mugs can make a real difference.
If your company is serious about reducing its impact on the environment and reducing its carbon footprint then this could be a game changer for you. Waste prevention and recycling reduces emissions associated with the energy required to produce and transport new products and emissions from incinerators and landfills. The study, ‘Greenhouse gas emission factors for recycling of source-segregated waste materials’ (Williams, Kemp and Turner, 2016), uncovered the most beneficial materials to recycle based on the saving of emissions. At the top were aluminium cans, aluminium foil, mixed cans, aerosols, textiles, footwear, mattresses and mixed plastics. Other benefits to recycling are that it reduces waste taken to landfills, it saves resources and it avoids injustices that can be associated with producing new materials.
As well as recycling the waste that your organisation produces, you can also opt to only source recycled products where possible. They are all the rage! Recycled paper products are a given, but did you know that you could buy furniture created from recycled plastic and post-consumer rubbish?
If this is just too much too soon for your company then you could consider doing your bit by going local! Sourcing products from a local supplier will reduce your carbon footprint and you will be supporting local businesses along with the local workforce! What better message to promote to your local community?
Over 40 major businesses have signed up to the UK plastics Pact, pledging to eradicate single-use plastics from all packaging. If you want to be taken seriously you have to get serious. Make a pledge and get the whole company involved. You need buy-in from the top down and you need to approach environmental responsibilities like all other business objectives to be measured. Even something as small as pledging to go paperless is a great way that your company can reduce waste in the office and do its bit for the environment.