Plastic waste has become one of the most talked about
environmental issues we are facing. Since the Blue Planet
documentaries highlighted problems with “ocean plastic” there has been
increasing scrutiny about what happens to the waste plastic we send
for recycling. It can take decades to degrade in landfill and is made
from oil (a finite fossil fuel). We don’t have enough recycling
facilities in the UK to deal with all of it, so waste management
companies often export our waste to other countries but they might not
always have the capacity to recycle it either. UK plastic waste has
been found stockpiled in abandoned waste facilities in Malaysia; and
China has stopped receiving our plastic waste altogether.
It is estimated that, globally, 8m tonnes of
plastic enter our oceans each year, a result of products containing
plastic going down the drain (more on that tomorrow) or litter being
carried by wind and rainwater. Storing and moving our waste around the
country, and the world, means there is a risk some will escape our
control. It’s also becoming clear that microplastics, whether from
manufacturing processes or from waste plastic degrading into tiny
pieces, can be found in our river and sea beds, and even in bottled
water. While a recent study found this not to be harmful to human
health, it is a stark reminder that everything we produce, use and
throw away has an impact that we don’t always see. The best way to
tackle this problem is to have a “Zero waste” approach, and not
produce plastic waste in the first place.
As part of a government initiative to remove Consumer Single Use
Plastic (CSUP) from its estate, Interserve is working with Compass,
our catering provider on the DWP contract, to replace some plastic
items used in coffee outlets and canteens, and eliminate others
altogether. So far we have:-
switched from plastic to wooden cutlery and hot drinks stirrers
stopped providing sauce in single use sachets and dispense it in
switched from plastic to cardboard takeaway containers and straws
hot drinks cups in all Peak Street outlets are made from
we’ve even introduced a plastic-free teabag (yes, plastic really is
What can I do about this?
Say “No” to Single Use! The best thing we can all do is try not
to use disposable, single use items:
Take your Interserve water bottle with you
and get it refilled for free, rather than buying bottled water.
You can also find cafes and shops in your area who will let you refill
it for free by downloading the app from https://refill.org.uk/
Carry a reusable coffee cup or flask for hot
drinks. Most outlets, including on the DWP estate, will offer a
discount for this.
If you buy lunch from a canteen, sandwich shop or salad bar,
bring your own reusable containe
r to take it away with you, or eat in and use washable crockery
Avoid cling film for your leftovers –
foil is more recyclable. Natural cotton and beeswax wraps
are becoming more widely available and popular – they can be moulded
to fit your plate or bowl and washed in cold water.
Unless otherwise stated, data and statistics are taken from HM
Government’s “Our Waste, Our Resources: a Strategy for
(2018) and “UK Statistics on Waste” published by DEFRA and Government
Statistical Service, March 2019.
There are many other little
changes you can make. Some small shops and even some supermarkets
allow you to take your own container to fill with rice, pasta, cereal
etc. Consider getting your milk delivered in returnable glass bottles
instead of plastic.