Sir David Attenborough’s much-lauded Clean Seas Project made headline news last year, forcing the global population to unite in reducing the amount of plastic contaminating our oceans.

Plastic plays a huge role in the day-to-day running of most foodservice businesses but with pressure over the environmental impact of single use plastics, along with pressure to find products which are also food safe, caterers are having to re-think their operations and look at alternatives.

What can I do?

The Sustainable Restaurant Association’s ‘Unwrapping Plastics’ campaign has produced a simple guide to understanding your options when it comes to six of the core offenders: straws, bottles, coffee cups, takeaway packaging, cutlery and cling film. Visit thesra. org/campaign/plastics/ to download a copy.

The UK produces around 76kg (167LBS) of plastic waste per person per year!

Plastic Bottles

Provide each team member with a reusable bottle and access to refill.

Offer tap water to customers first.

If you must have bottled, explore glass or recycled plastic.

Consider offering water in aluminium cans, which are considerably easier to recycle than plastic.

Plastic Straws

Review which drinks if any actually need straws.

Train staff to only give them out when necessary.

Switch to paper straws.

Offer or sell reusable stainless steel straws.

Keep in mind that some customers, such as those with disabilities, may need a straw with a ‘flex’, so keep some in stock.

8.5 Billion Plastic Straws are thrown away in the UK each year

Coffee Cups

Provide each team member with a reusable cup and introduce branded reusables for customers.

Add a levy for cups or offer a discount to incentivize customers to bring a reusable cup.

If coffee cups are recyclable, clearly communicate to customers how and where they recycle.

A disposable coffee cup used for 20 minutes will stay on earth for 200 years!

Takeaway Packaging

If contaminated with food waste, card and plastic takeaway packaging will be sent to landfill, so encourage customers to rinse and recycle.

Plastic Cutlery

Ask customers if they need cutlery rather than automatically supplying it. Switch to recyclable or wooden cutlery.