How to reduce plastic waste in the office

How to reduce plastic waste in the office

As some of you may have heard, we had been piloting a single-use plastic ban at Intelligent Facility Solutions headquarters. We recieved quite the attention for it! Our ban was covered by The Times, featured on various radio stations (BBC Radio 5, Sheffield, Wales, and Northern Ireland), and covered on TV by This Morning and The Jeremy Vine Show.

We are currently in Phase 2 of this ban, which has made the ban more permanent but allows sweets and crisps – something we voted to keep as this was the category that we all struggled with finding plastic-free alternatives to. You can see more of this follow up here.

Single-use plastics make up 40% of the total plastic that’s produced each year. A scary stat. For more facts and figures, especially for your kiddos, we produced an infographic detailing some plastic pollution facts for kids.

So, we have put together our seven main tips that we’ve found useful in our own efforts to reduce our use and waste of single-use plastics.

Milk delivered in glass bottles

We are an office of big tea and coffee drinkers, so we get through a lot of milk. And previously, this meant a lot of plastic milk bottles ending up in our recycling bins. But we have now arranged for our milk to be delivered twice a week in glass bottles, and the used glass bottles are taken away to be reused. However, the best solution would be to find a local shop who sells milk in glass bottles to eliminate transportation emissions.

Doorstep deliveries used to be the norm a few decades ago, but it now only accounts for around 3% of all milk sales. We have gotten accustomed to buying our milk from the supermarket, in plastic bottles. But it seems there is a resurgence in demand for doorstep delivery of milk, thanks to David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ and its focus on the reality of plastic pollution.

Cakes and fruit delivered in no plastic packaging

We have a weekly supply of a range of fruits delivered to us once a week, which comes with no plastic packaging – just cardboard. This has meant we’ve taken away the need to buy fruit from supermarkets/shops that do usually have their fruit and veg packaged in some sort of plastic.

We also have cakes delivered to us once a week, which also comes in no plastic packaging. It is instead wrapped in vegware paper that is then able to be composted with food waste. As previously mentioned, we haven’t been able to completely cut out our other treats, but having these cakes delivered has definitely helped! And we are also considering maybe setting up a plastic-free tuck shop for staff.

Reusable water bottles provided to staff

All staff have been provided with a reusable water bottle and this has been taken up really well. There are no longer water/drink bottles around the office, and it has completely changed our behaviour and mindset when it comes to buying disposable bottles. Which is good as a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.

Kitchen facilities provided (e.g. cutlery, kettle, microwave)

This is great for discouraging the use of takeaway hot drinks and packaged up lunches/meal deals. We talk more about those pesky takeaway coffee cups and their ‘recyclability’ in another post.

Most of us bring our own lunches in from home in reusable containers. And those that don’t, have at least been able to cut out the use of disposable plastic cutlery.

Hygiene and cleaning products

We have our soaps delivered in big containers and poured into dispensers. The containers are then taken back to be reused. So, we no longer have those wasteful pump bottle soap containers. Our next step is to reduce our plastic use/waste regarding cleaning products. We’ve been doing our research and found a few shops/brands we’re looking into further.

Currently, we are about to trial cleaning pods from oceansaver, who produce cleaning pods that can then be mixed with water in a plastic bottle you already own. So, cutting out the middle man and the unnecessary plastic packaging and waste. But there are a couple of places here in Sheffield that also either stock package-free cleaning products or provide refill stations.

The Bare Alternative and Unwrapped are both zero waste shops that provide a range of products from food, to toiletries, to utensils. You simply bring your own containers and fill it with whatever you need. A wonderful alternative to your typical package-heavy supermarkets. Especially when it comes to hygiene and cleaning products, as they seem to be harder to buy without plastic packaging.

We are also in the process of developing a plastic free brand of bamboo toilet paper. Unbleached, 100% natural, hypoallergenic, sustainable bamboo that we will of course be using in our own loos. Watch this space for more info!

Work with suppliers

This is something that we haven’t fully implemented yet, but are undergoing various conversations with our suppliers regarding either reducing packaging or opting for more eco-friendly packaging. Some of the difficulties we have encountered is language barriers and that the orders we have are usually urgent, so it’ll take time for them to implement an easy and quick alternative during production.

But we are making some head way, with a few suppliers redesigning our packaging and providing alternatives to plastic. These are still in the testing phase, but we remain optimistic.

Provision of thorough recycling facilities

For the plastics that we haven’t been able to find alternatives for, we make every effort to recycle them. Unfortunately, Sheffield is quite limited in what plastics it can take via its curbside recycling service. For more info on this, we produced a recycling plastics guide for Sheffield. As curbside recycling is quite restrictive, we have invested in a TerraCycle ‘All-in-One’ bin. This service allows you to recycle absolutely any kind of waste you have!

We hope these plastic-free tips will inspire and help your business in reducing your plastic use and minimising waste. We would love to hear how you get on or if your business has implemented something similar to us.

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