Many of us saw the series Blue Planet II and were shocked at how plastics are impacting our environment and now being a major influence in the ‘Blue Planet Effect’, seeing ourselves how plastic is killing marine life and acidifying our oceans. Due to this, many organisations are beginning to increase their plastic recycling and where possible reducing the use of plastics at all.
At home, I try to do my best for the family and the environment, Blue Planet Effect or not, creating home cooked fresh meals each night, but still, the plastic that we go through as a family (all washed and recycled I may add) is massive. Our bin is full of plastic wrapping from the fruit and veg that we buy, and the plastic containers from the fresh meat and fruit punnets overflows in our recycling bins. I know I’m not the only one, and this is happening in the hospitality industry too – but at a much bigger scale.
Many caterers are recycling, it’s becoming the norm, but like me at home doing my daily recycling, I’m not satisfied, and the hospitality industry shouldn’t be either. We shouldn’t feel smug for doing our recycling, as there is so much more that we can do – and recycling is just the tip of the iceberg.
So, I have some questions for business leaders and caterers out there …
- Could you work with suppliers to reduce packaging? Suppliers are likely to deliver goods in crates and boxes; would they take them back and reuse them? Working with a local fruit and veg supplier may support you with reducing packaging on the goods.
- Could you look at your ordering pattern? Could you buy in larger pack sizes? Could the ham be 1kg packs instead of two 500g packs?
- Is your menu savvy? Utilising food which would be wasted will help you reduce the number of products and therefore packaging that you buy. With this, you’re onto a winner, not only in terms of plastics and packaging, but your margins and your business manager are likely to be happier too! Can yesterday’s roast vegetables be tomorrows soup? Could the leftover potatoes be part of the next day’s leek and potato pie?
- Some of this is normal practice for some kitchens, but have you actually put some time aside to train your staff on environment issues and how they link with your operational practises? Do they know why they should recycle, do they know how to do it properly?
- How do you tell staff and customers about your environmental efforts? Can you increase awareness and keep the momentum of the Blue Planet Effect? Education is key, making sure your staff and customers know the measures you are taking to reduce plastic packaging and waste in your kitchen and why will really make a difference, making sure staff are supporting your initiatives, giving them motivation and encouraging customers to come back.
- How about your environmental or procurement policies? Do they exist and are they up to date? Do they include some of the modern-day practises to make sure this is the ethos of your business?
- Have you thought how you could do better, or benchmark against other organisations?
- What about front of house? Are the takeaway boxes polystyrene, cutlery plastic, and sandwiches in plastic containers?
Hopefully, some of these questions have made you think, and sparked some ideas of how to do more when it comes to plastics. We shouldn’t stop at just our trips out to the recycling bin, there is so much more that we need to put into practise, the deed of recycling is just the tip of the (ever melting) iceberg. Fulfilling the Blue Planet Effect will mean we all have to confront more than the plastic we can see but start making changes to the bigger picture lying beneath the surface. Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) have created this useful document to explain more about plastics.
If you are looking for a framework to support you with your environmental improvements in your kitchens, not only plastics, but energy, water and food waste, then our Green Kitchen Standard framework can guide you step by step in making embedded changes to your business and shouting about your environmental credentials. Contact Liz Harding-Wyatt on firstname.lastname@example.org visit our website: www.soilassociation.org/green-kitchen-standard or call 0117 3145186.