Practical office tips to cut down on plastic use and help the environment
Over recent months and years, it has become increasingly obvious that we are dealing with a plastic waste emergency on a worldwide scale. The enormity of what plastic pollution is doing to our oceans, harming our wildlife and clogging up landfill sites can’t have escaped anyone’s notice – the disturbing images are there for all to see.
It is estimated that over 100,000 marine animals and over 1 million marine birds are killed by plastic every year. That’s in addition to small toxic particles that are formed when plastic breaks down, that go on to pollute our water supply and enter our food chain. And the sheer amount of waste – every single bit of plastic ever made still exists! – is evidence that while we may treat plastic as a disposable material, it is in fact virtually indestructible.
Plastic is everywhere – it’s cheap and convenient and we take it for granted in every aspect of modern life, whether at home or in business. Changing the habit of using plastic in our daily lives may seem like a nigh-on impossible task, but positive changes can, no must, be adopted now to stem the flow of plastic waste.
Here are five practical ways that you can make a difference during the working day.
- Bring your own reusable coffee cup
Did you know that approximately 2.5 billion plastic coffee cups per year (or 5,000 per minute!) are thrown away in the UK? And that 99% of them cannot be recycled? While grabbing a takeaway hot beverage on the way to work or during break times is a habit no-one would want to go without, there’s no reason why the convenience of a plastic cup should be harming the planet.
The easy solution is to make it a daily routine to bring your own cup and reuse it throughout the day. Many coffee shops and other retailers now sell reusable coffee cups, and a whole new market has sprung up around the popularity of these now trendy office accessories. What’s more, a large number of eco-minded cafes offer a discount to customers who bring their own reusable cup.
- Pack your own lunch in reusable containers
During hectic work days, routinely eating out at lunchtime can be expensive and time consuming. The alternative is to pick up a takeaway sandwich, salad and/or a drink. But have you noticed that everything comes packaged in single use plastic, and often with the added convenience of plastic cutlery and a straw? In order to avoid these worst plastic polluting culprits and go waste free at lunchtime, consider the following options.
- Bring your own lunch, packed in a reusable container such as a stainless-steel bento box, a household Tupperware box or beeswax food wrap.
- Carry your own (metal) cutlery with you, or leave a set at the office, or invest in sustainable bamboo cutlery in a travel pouch.
- Buy reusable straws made from stainless steel, bamboo, silicone, acrylic or glass, or skip the straw altogether.
- Carry a reusable water bottle
6-8 glasses of water a day has long been the recommended healthy amount needed for proper hydration. Much of this is consumed via bottled water, typically from plastic bottles. Single use plastic bottles shouldn’t be reused since research has shown that toxins from the plastic can leach into the water, especially if the bottle has been left in light or heat for any length of time. In fact, tap water in the UK is far more strictly regulated than the bottled water industry, meaning tap water is the healthier option in any case.
The most environmentally friendly alternative to throwaway water bottles is to carry your own reusable bottle, made from stainless steel, glass or BPA-free polypropylene, and refill it with tap water at home or at work.
- Shun the plastic shopping bag
Single use plastic bags are one of the greatest offenders when it comes to plastic pollution. They’re used for minutes before being thrown away, and literally take hundreds of years to decompose. While the plastic bag tax has gone some way to reduce the use of single use plastic bags, there really is no excuse for not carrying reusable bags with you and stopping the use of traditional plastic bags altogether.
What’s more, most fresh produce and many other groceries are routinely though unnecessarily sold in plastic bags or packaging. The tide is turning, however, with major retailers such as Amazon changing from plastic to paper based packaging and more innovative ways of packing their products safely and sustainably.
- Share the plastic free message
Teamwork is key if we want to effect a positive change to drastically reduce the use of plastic. Raising awareness of the problem is the first task, and there’s much that can be done in the workplace to alert everyone to the enormous scale of plastic pollution as well as their contribution to it.
Promoting the reduction of plastic in the office can take many forms – from waste audits and recycling initiatives to in-house green pledges and working with environmentally friendly suppliers. However, you choose to tackle the issue and obtain the support of your team, the more people work towards going plastic free, the better the state of the planet for the benefit of future generations.
Written by: Mike James, BOSS Contributor