A plastic revolution for businesses?
For businesses in 2018, plastic has become an epidemic. Plastic keyboard, plastic mouse, plastic pens, plastic water bottle, plastic food packaging – it’s at our fingertips throughout our working day.
Plastic consumption may once have been at the bottom of a business’ priorities, but the days of it being a trivial matter are well and truly over. The almost daily headlines around the growth of the plastic island in the Pacific Ocean – now estimated to be six times the size of the UK – together with impassioned pleas from the likes of David Attenborough have shifted public attitudes. Sky News will mention the damage we are causing to our planet almost hourly with the ‘Ocean Rescue’ campaign they are running. The headline of this campaign is that every minute, the equivalent of a rubbish truck-load of plastic goes in to our oceans, it never decomposes and will remain there forever.
Such statistics make for sobering reading and it would be difficult for any responsible business not to respond. While recycling plastic has become habitual at home, it’s fair to say the day-to-day business world is probably still playing catch-up. I can’t help but notice, with the hundreds of offices that I visit every year as part of my business development role, that recycling is often not commonplace for offices and I often see plastic waste piled into normal refuge bins dotted around offices and communal kitchens.
While we will never escape plastics in our offices (unless another material for most office equipment is invented), businesses can take some very simple measures that don’t cost the earth. At Aura Technology, we have implemented all of the below tips to become greener and reduce our plastic waste:
- We have moved to only purchasing 100% bio-degradable tea bags. It’s not widely known, but a large number of tea bags are only 70% biodegradable and contain polypropylene. Next time you purchase, read the back of the box to find out. We recommend Tea Pigs, Pukka Tea and Twinings pyramid tea bags.
- We noticed that cling film was a very popular method of keeping sandwiches and packed lunches fresh for our staff. This can take years to decompose in landfill. We are encouraging our staff to utilise Tupperware instead. This doesn’t have to be costly. Many takeaway restaurants provide the dishes in reusable Tupperware containers which can be used time and time again.
- As a perk for our employees, we provide fizzy drinks, water, chocolate, fruit and various other refreshments in the office to keep them fuelled and focused. Bottled water was very popular and creating a huge amount of plastic waste daily. We have since installed a ‘smart tap’ in the kitchen which dispenses filtered water, fizzy water, and boiling water. This doesn’t cost the earth and has made a huge difference in reducing our plastic waste. We can recommend Zip Tap – see zipwater.co.uk for more information.
- Recycling can be very costly for a business and, until this changes, every employee needs to play their part to make a tangible difference. Although the steps we have taken have reduced our plastic waste, we still have drinks cans and packaging that need to be responsibly disposed of. We are lucky enough to have large communal recycling bins in the business park we are on, but if your employer does not recycle currently, you should be asking why.
- Like many people in business, our engineering and sales teams spend a lot of time travelling. We are all avid coffee lovers and I especially enjoy an early morning takeaway coffee before catching the train to Waterloo. This could be two to three times per week, and every time I was drinking from a cardboard cup with a plastic lid. Often, this gets tossed into the nearest bin and not recycled. We have now provided all staff with Aura-branded reusable coffee mugs.
- As a technology business, we frequently need to ship computer parts to our customers’ premises. We have started to keep and re-use packaging from our own deliveries for these shipments.
- Finally, we have replaced our bin liners with biodegradable bin liners made from corn starch. They aren’t much more expensive and are available from all good stores.
Becoming a more environmentally-friendly business won’t necessarily have overnight wins, but the rewards can be reaped in the long-term. A more motivated workforce, reputation, public relations, reducing the bottom line – these are just a few of the long-term payoffs, in addition to your business helping to protect the planet for the present and future.
I predict more and more businesses will employ innovative ways of reducing plastic consumption over the next few years and we will start to see changes in office culture. Whether it will be a revolution or an evolution, remains to be seen.
I’d love to hear your tips and your stories, so please share this article to increase awareness as I truly believe we all have a part to play.
Head of Business Development – Aura Technology