Plastic Over Usage Is Standard For Business. Here Is How To Cut Back

Published on: 29 October 2022
by KnowESG
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Of all the pollutants we have so generously introduced to the world, the worst one that is exerting the most significant impact is plastic. It is in everything these days, which is why it’s not surprising that we produce 300 million tonnes of plastic every year. And, while there are some great initiatives out there - such as some areas using wooden cutlery over plastic - there are still several gaps in these strategies.

Not every town has good recycling policies in place which only encourages people to put more plastic in landfills. And many businesses behave in the exact same manner.

There needs to be more effort put in place than recycling plastic. Similar to cars, what will make the planet better is if we - and businesses - reduce the amount of plastic that is used on a regular basis. What this would look like is implementing some of the many ideas that are listed below.

Performing A Plastics Audit

In order to see how much plastic needs to be reduced, you need a benchmark first. The most accurate way of finding that out is to conduct an audit. Find out just how much plastic is being used on a daily basis.

This doesn’t just count plastic containers you get at grocery stores, but even looking to see if plastic is used in daily business operations too. 

Tackle The Single Use Plastics First

One of the prevalent uses of plastic is single-use plastics. Everything from cups to utensils and packets, all of that plastic builds up over time quickly. Eliminating or reducing these kinds of plastics is most important and there are several ways to go about it.

First is making the switch to something else. Grocery stores in Canada recently removed all plastic bags. You either can pay for bags, or bring in your own reusable ones. For businesses, it can be replacing plastic cups with company-branded travel cups.

If your business is selling goods, you can look into different kinds of packaging like recycled plastic or paper. For stores, you can take a page from grocery stores and encourage customers to bring reusable bags or containers. 

And The Plastic Bags, Too

Even though plastic bags do fall under single use, it is worth giving them special attention as they are everywhere. For businesses, removing plastic bags from stores or from circulating further would be ideal.

Already a lot of countries have put in place - or are talking about - removing plastic bags already. That change is going to happen sooner rather than later. If you are using plastic bags, make a point of getting rid of them now. If you can’t live without bags, look for creative solutions like providing cardboard boxes, crates, or incentive programmes.

Educate People About Plastic

Even though we have a general understanding of plastic, it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is on the same page. Many people can look at grocery stores charging for plastic bags as underhanded business tactics for example rather than the company’s own way of reducing plastic.

As a result, it’s important to educate everyone about plastic. What is recyclable and what isn’t is a start, but encouraging people to reduce how much plastic they use in general, and showing them how can make a difference too.

Incentivize Reduced Plastic Use

To build on education, offering incentives is one way of getting people on board with an idea. Change becomes easier to implement when there is both a plan and a reason to commit to it. For businesses, they can encourage staff to reduce plastic usage by offering incentives like:

  • Salary raises when a person reaches their plastic reduction goals, based on the savings accrued by more efficient resource use.

  • Letting people go home earlier while still paying full-time hours.

  • Doing something fun like taking the group out for lunch.

When it comes to customers, incentives can be trickier to do in those cases. However, some ideas are:

  • Providing discounts whenever someone brings a reusable bag or cup.

  • Having penalties for using plastic bags such as charging for plastic bags.

  • Putting plastic-take-back programmes in place.

Replace K-Cups With A Coffee Machine

In break rooms, it makes sense to have these machines in place. They’re nice and convenient and you don’t have to wait that long. The problem is the K-cups are plastic. And our obsession with them has been detrimental.

To start, those containers aren’t even recyclable. And according to the Story of Stuff, there are so many of these in landfills that they could wrap around the entire planet 10 times.

Even though Keurig Green Mountain’s president in 2019 said they would plan to make them recyclable by 2020, that transition is still ongoing. But what’s more frustrating is the fact many parts of the western world don’t have the programs to accept recycling those pods yet.

In these circumstances, it’s better to reduce how often you use them.

Encourage Brown-Bagging Lunch

Cooking your own meals is good in several ways. But in the case of the environment, it’s even better. Even though restaurants are being more mindful of packaging and such, there is still a lot of plastic being used and those changes can take time.

Encouraging staff to bring their own food to work is better. Especially when you provide a fridge and microwave for them to use. This can also encourage you to get fresh fruits, veggies, and other healthy snacks

Removing Vending Machines, And Plastic Water Bottles

Water coolers instead of water bottles are an easy replacement. Alternatively, having a filter on water taps in the break room or a filtered water pitcher works too. Also removing vending machines will make it easier to incentivize people to bring their own beverages in or drink more water.

Reducing Plastics Is Easier Than You Think

Even though plastics are in so many parts of our lives, there are steps that we can take to easily reduce most of our plastic consumption. This reduction would be astronomical if several businesses across the world decided to take more proactive steps in this regard. It’s a much better idea than waiting for regulations and laws to be put in place.

Follow KnowESG for news, ideas, course and events that help your workplace become smarter about resource use.

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