Reducing Plastic Consumption

Why focus on reducing plastic consumption?

Initially, it might not seem like reducing plastic consumption is the way to go. After all, we recycle plastic now right? Well, not really… Ever gone to throw something into the blue bin and note the phrase ‘Not currently recycled’? This happens more often than we think; often we just assume a plastic product can be recycled when it can’t. And sometimes, even though it can be recycled, it is contaminated with food or waste particles and so won’t be cleaned… and will end up on the dump instead.

A lot of plastic ends up in landfill and takes years to biodegrade. If indeed it does at all – some plastics biodegrade through UV exposure, so if that plastic bottle is hidden in a mound of rubbish at the dump, it probably won’t see the sun and as such, won’t even begin to decompose (you can read more about it here).

Furthermore, even if the plastic does start to break down, it can decompose in an inefficient way, leaking microplastics into the surrounding environment. These small bits of plastic are then often consumed by animals or insects, and enter the food chain. So… you see the problem!

How to begin reducing plastic consumption in a business environment

As businesses, we are responsible for amending our green policies to try and reduce plastic consumption. A business-wide decision will have a much greater impact than anything a single individual can do at home. This choice inevitably has a positive knock on effect on the environment and our sales!

Customers nowadays are keen to use their buying power to do good, and companies that promote their green ethos, such as Lush, are incredibly popular. But with plastic forming the foundation of so much packaging and labelling, how do we start? Follow these suggestions to get your business moving in the right direction.

1. Packaging

Take a look at your packaging and see if you can reduce or replace plastic. Opt for more eco friendly alternatives like brown paper, or get creative with upcycling and use old newspapers, magazines or wrapping paper.

Make your unconventional packaging a feature and encourage upcycling on your customer’s part too. A great example of this is Who Gives a Crap who use fully recyclable toilet roll wrapping, which they encourage customers to re-use as wrapping paper as it’s colourful and well designed. This allows the paper to be reused, upcycled and then eventually recycled.

If you must use plastic, try to ensure it’s easily recyclable and keep it to a minimum.

2. Labelling

Similarly, a lot of labels are printed with plastic elements, which make them hard or impossible to recycle. Instead of using plastic based labelling, why not utilise card swing tags? Swing tags are recyclable, but you can go one step further. Opt for swing tags that are made of paper that has already been recycled, or kraft paper which is recycled, recyclable and unbleached. Unlike recycled paper, which has undergone a bleaching process, kraft is a natural brown hue, and is the most eco-friendly of the papers, as it uses far less energy to create.

3. Reuse and upcycle

Follow these steps to help keep your business’ overall plastic consumption reduce:

  • Encourage your staff to bring reusable water bottles and mugs for tea and coffee
  • Stock any vending machines with snacks with recyclable or minimal packaging
  • Ensure that any bags used by staff and customers are recycled or fabric and reusable
  • Have reusable and refillable containers for snacks
  • Ensure that any staff stationery is eco friendly and made from recycled and recyclable paper
  • If you must use plastics, try to invest in ones that are recyclable, or durable and reusable so that you can use them time and time again.
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