Plastic seems to be an essential part of our lives in the 21st century, especially plastic packaging. Food and drink products are the biggest source of single use plastics, so we’ve developed a list of our Top Five Tips to help our members make some inroads in tackling the 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste discarded every year. And that’s just in the UK. Avoiding single use plastics is one of our main campaigns in 2018 and we will be collecting information on how businesses are tackling this major environmental problem.
From straws and cotton buds to coffee cups and stirrers, plastics are littering our countryside and polluting our seas and beaches. Actions like the 5p charge for a plastic bag have resulted in a fantastic 80% reduction in polythene use, but the overall impact of plastic waste on the environment is still growing.
So what can you do about it? For tourism businesses it can seem overwhelming to consider halting single use plastic items. At present the consumer is being offered a very limited choice so it is a challenge to change our procurement habits. However as consumers and hospitality providers we can try to eliminate single use plastics from the products we offer customers. In B&Bs and hotels, tea and coffee trays and bathroom toiletries are some of the worse offenders, while many cafés still use plastic packaging for takeaway drinks and food. Check out our Top Tips for some straightforward ideas and swops – we’re working on an easy way for you to measure and promote your positive actions which we will share with you soon.
TOP FIVE TIPS FOR AVOIDING PLASTIC
Plastic milk bottles – If buying in bulk you can switch to a pergola or find out if there is a glass return bottle system locally. Try ditching mini plastic milk containers on room trays (they’re annoying to open and don’t taste of proper milk anyway) and let guests know they can request a little fresh milk jug instead.
Around 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year in the UK, and even disposable cups that look and feel like they’re made of paper can contain a plastic film liner and so cannot be recycled. If you run a café or bar offering take out beverages, try using fewer disposable cups by offering a small discount for those who bring their own reusable heatproof versions; or for those sitting at tables, stick to china cups. If you need to use disposable cups, seek out those with no plastic and look out for edible cups currently in development – think ice cream cone and you get the idea!
TEA & COFFEE
Our Campaign for Real Tea and promotion of tea infusers highlighted the fact that many teabags still contain plastic. Loose tea is the way to go and plastic coffee sachets can easily be replaced with paper versions. Stick with paper sachets for sugar too, or good old fashioned sugar lumps in a bowl.
STRAWS, STIRRERS & CUTLERY
Plastic straws and stirrers make a significant contribution to waste in the UK – some put the number as high as 8 billion used a year. Wooden stirrers are better in every way, while plastic straws can be replaced with paper ones, and for personal use, reusable straws made from bamboo, glass, silicon and metal are a great option. Non-plastic cutlery materials include wood and compostable corn starch so please consider these if you run a café, street food operation or festival catering, for example.
Plastic water bottles – again, a serious problem, so avoidance is a real must. Luckily this is perhaps one of the easiest habits to change, with more and more reusable ‘bottle for life’ options and funky flasks available. Offer to fill up visitors’ water bottles for free and put a covered jug or carafe of filtered water in rooms or at least leave complimentary glass mineral water bottles rather than plastic ones.
Make a pledge to change a business habit and reduce our plastic consumption. Don’t worry if you can’t do everything straight away but definitely commit to doing at least one thing. Get your staff on board and make it enjoyable. Plus you’ll boost your green credentials and may even move up a grading level.
Over the last quarter Green Tourism businesses successfully reached a target of a 1 million tonne carbon saving. Now let’s try and save a billion disposable plastic-loaded items from coffee cups and plastic sachets to straws and stirrers. We understand that convenience and cost both play a part in buying choices, but if enough tourism businesses make some small but significant changes and we at Green Tourism can track and measure your actions, then we’ll have a strong and positive story to share over the next few years.
Keep following our blogs and look out for how to record your changes so we can report back on the plastic reduction measures Green Tourism members are collectively making.
Because together we really can make a real difference . . .