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What Can You Do About Plastic In The Workplace?

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Plastic Bag Pollution
20 April 2018 | Updated 23 April 2018

The Earth Day Network has launched a Plastic Pollution Calculator for individuals and we have some top tips from the Planet Mark on how to reduce plastic in the workplace.

Earth Day on April 22 was focused on mobilising the world to end plastic pollution.

Having been made aware of the huge cost to our oceans and natural world and the damage to our own health from plastic pollution, the demand from consumers to take action on plastic waste has reached record heights – and businesses are responding almost on a daily basis through pledges to cut plastic usage and through designing better products that considers 'end of life'.

Said Steve Malkin of The Planet Mark: "We know from our own work with businesses that waste and recycling is invariably top of the list of concerns for people in the workplace when asked how would they like to take action to improve their sustainability. With plastic pollution now squarely in the spotlight, we think there’s never been a better time to reduce waste and improve recycling – not to mention repurposing – rates in your organisation.

"Remember, taking a strategic approach to your waste can help reduce your business costs and may even generate an income through specific resource streams – all while engaging your employees around something they care about, and at the same time as helping your organisation meet its sustainability objectives."


ThisWeekinFM Scuba Club

Paul Gisby (who works closely with Steve Malkin said: "Here at the ThisWeekinFM Scuba Club, in conjunction with Oyster Diving, we are working hard to continually drive the message home as to how vital the oceans are to our planets health and wellbeing. It’s great to see that the message is getting out there and is receiving the recognition it richly deserves.

"We use every opportunity, when conducting our presentations and dive courses, to not only remind people but also to raise awareness about how the growing abuse of our oceans and the irresponsible use of plastics is affecting the delicate eco-balance as well as contaminating - and in many cases killing - those creatures living in and also around them."

To find out more about the ThisWeekinFM Scuba Club, in conjunction with Oyster Diving - Click Here.


Five top tips:

Check your bins - while in many businesses the aspiration is to reduce waste and recycle more, too often than not the bins will tell a different story. Make sure you have separate waste bins to capture different resource streams for recycling and repurposing. Ensure these are clearly labelled and positioned in appropriate locations. If your workplace is an office, ensure desk bins are removed as these encourage individuals to throw all of their waste into one bin without segregating. Remember, by creating systems that capture different resources, you will be able to measure your waste and thereby reduce it effectively. The Earth Day Network has created an handy Plastic Pollution Calculator to see how many plastic items you consume yearly. This will not only help lower your general waste removal costs, but ensure you are recycling all recyclable waste, including plastic that can be recycled. Taking this approach could even generate new income for your business through finding new uses within the business for specific resource streams (e.g. if you have a lot of food waste you could be generating energy from your waste through a nearby on onsite anaerobic digester, for example)

Take action on single-use plastic - we have become addicted to single-use plastic, but the frivolous use of plastic is a real scourge on our planet. Not only is it chocking our marine wildlife, but it is damaging human health too. Single-use plastic should therefore be tackled as a priority in the workplace, as well as the home. Make your workplace a plastic straw-free zone, whatever industry you operate in. Ban single-use plastic cups from your water fountains and ensure any food and beverage suppliers you use are addressing their single-use plastic packaging effectively. Engage your employees in action through workshops, green teams, events and pledges. Donation is an easy-to-use pledging platform which recently launched a Fantastic Unplastic pledging campaign.

Manage your supply chain - cutting your plastic usage and reducing your waste doesn’t stop at the door of your own operations. You need to ensure that suppliers you procure from are tackling the problem too. Major retailers, brand and plastic packaging suppliers are signing up to ambitious targets to eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic and to use recycled plastic in their packaging where possible while ensuring all plastic packaging is practically recyclable (not just technically possible). Make sure your suppliers are not falling behind.

Talk to your waste management company - if you don’t know who your waste management supplier is, then you’re not tackling your waste and recycling appropriately. Your waste management company will not only collect your waste and recover your resources correctly, but it will provide you with the necessary data to enable you to measure your waste accurately – an essential step in managing and reducing your waste. They can also develop the right waste management strategy for your business. This will likely involve an audit to examine the way your waste is currently being managed and identify potential opportunities that are being missed. But waste management company’s can go much further than that. They can come up with innovative solutions to specific issues your organisation faces, and they can even help educate your employees through workshops and visits to specialist waste and recycling facilities. Planet Mark-certified Bywaters offers site visits to its Materials Recovery Facility in East London, for example.

Make a pledge - setting targets can be a great way to take action on sustainability. So why not make a pledge to increase your recycling rates and materials recovery while reducing your plastic waste? If you have multiple offices or sites, you could even turn it into a competition to see which sites achieves the best results.


The Planet Mark Guide To Plastic Consumption & How To Reduce It

Three graphics that explain the plastic pollution problem

Turning the tide on plastic pollution: interview with Svein Tveitdal, former Director in the UN Environmental Programme


Plastics Pollution Calculator

The Earth Day Network has released an online Plastics Pollution Calculator ( for consumers to calculate the amount of disposable plastic they use in a year and make plans to reduce the waste.


The size of the problem

9.1 billion U.S. tons of virgin (non-recycled) plastic has been produced to date, generating 6.9 billion U.S. tons of plastic waste, and only 9% has been recycled. The world is already incapable of properly managing this enormous amount of waste and the production of plastic is predicted to increase three times in the next 25 years. We know that micro-plastics are polluting our drinking water and the fish we eat and also cause health problems. Littered plastic not only kills wildlife but affects the lives of more than 2 billion people living without waste collection.

“Plastic pollution is now an ever-present challenge. We can see plastics floating in our rivers, ocean and lagoons, littering our landscapes and affecting our health and the future of billions of children and youth. We have all contributed to this problem – mostly unknowingly – and we must work to reduce and ultimately to End Plastic Pollution,” said Valeria Merino, Vice-President of Global Earth Day at Earth Day Network.

The Earth Day Network (EDN) is encouraging consumers to join the fight to reduce plastic pollution as part of its End Plastic Pollution campaign for Earth Day 2018. “You first need to know where you stand,” said Merino. “This plastic pollution calculator will help you determine your total yearly consumption of disposable plastic items.”


The Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit

This will help consumers determine actions they can take to reduce their plastic pollution footprint. EDN’s efforts center around the 5 Rs - Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle and Remove - actions.

“Once people have learned the benefits of embracing the 5 Rs in your daily lives,” Merino said, “we hope you will create a goal for decreasing your yearly plastic pollution using the Plastic Pollution Tracker ( also available in the Toolkit.”


Can't recycle

While recycling plastic waste is important, it is not nearly enough, noteed Merino. “You may be lulled into thinking it is OK to consume disposable plastic products because you plan to recycle them, yet many plastics can’t be efficiently recycled and will end up in the landfill or littering the planet, even in the most remote places. Also, some localities lack the most basic infrastructure to manage waste and to sort and recycle plastics. For this reason, it is much more important to focus on reducing your own level of plastic consumption.”


Kicking the Plastic Bag Addiction

The Quebec Government Office in New York, in partnership with New York University and the Earth Day Network, will convene a roundtable discussion on April 20 to exchange best practices in support of this year’s Earth Day theme - End Plastic Pollution.  Participants will include representatives from several Permanent Missions to the United Nations, as well as from the United Nations Environment Programme and New York State Legislature.

As of January 1, 2018, Montreal became the first major city in Canada to ban single-use plastic bags.  The Canadian federal government is also using its presidency at this year’s G7 meeting in June in Charlevoix, Québec to put the global plastic problem front and centre and push for an ambitious zero-plastics-waste charter.

Note: The average plastic bag is used for 20 minutes and takes more than 400 years to break down. In 2015, the world produced 322 million tonnes of plastic, which equals 900 Empire State Buildings!

Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 20 April 2018


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