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Plastic In The Office - Replace, Remove, Reduce And Reuse

Plastics in the office
08 November 2019

Jackie Furey addresses the widespread issue of plastic in the environment by providing various tips on how to reduce its use in the office.


Changing habits

Lots of plastic waste in offices comes in the form of staff lunches, so a good place to start is through a campaign to discourage ‘on the go lunches’ in one of two ways. The first is to provide your employees with meals on site. This will mean that your company has direct control over the waste that is produced – and you’ll also see a huge increase in employee wellbeing from providing food. However, it is often not a feasible option to provide meals for your staff – especially for smaller businesses. But you can encourage staff to bring their own lunches by providing them with good facilities to store and reheat their food.

Additionally, having ample and good quality food and preparation facilities will encourage staff to bring their own food rather than heading to the shops at lunchtime and consuming foods that are, inevitably, in single-use packaging.


Have reusables in kitchens & canteens

Disposable plastic cutlery, plates and cups are one of the top single-use plastic offenders. A single-use plastic utensil is useful for minutes and yet will stay in our environment for centuries. It’s much better to opt for reusable, washable utensils that can be used again and again. Make sure you provide staff with enough utensils to be able to make and eat their lunch conveniently as well as ensuring you provide the facilities to wash them after use.


Cut down on tea and coffee plastic

Making tea and coffee in the office is one of the biggest plastic generating activities and there are steps you can take to minimise this, which will add up to a massive reduction in plastic waste over time.

Firstly, switch back to the milkman. Try to source milk delivered in reusable (and returnable) glass bottles. Additionally, sugar often comes in plastic pots. You can easily switch this out for sugar that comes in paper packets.

Did you know that most tea bags have plastic in them? Loose leaf tea is a plastic free option but there are also plastic-free tea brands if you do your research. Thinking about coffee, some providers offer freshly roasted coffee beans in plastic free packaging.


Create an office tuck shop

Creating your own office tuck shop is an excellent way to influence what snacks your staff are eating – and what packaging is being left behind. Having your own tuck shop makes it easy to replace bottles with cans and plastic-wrapped sweets and crisps with home-baked goods or a fruit bowl.


Install a water cooler

Single-use plastic water bottles are among the most common items we find washed up on beaches. Globally we get through a million plastic bottles a minute – a statistic that is both mind-boggling and devastating, especially given that in many countries today the tap water is safe, free and more regulated than the bottled water industry. Put a ban on single-use water bottles in the office. Install a water-cooler (without the little plastic cups) where staff can refill their own water bottles. To keep this option completely plastic free, opt for a water cooler that is plumbed directly into the mains water supply rather than the plastic water vessels.  


Re-useable mugs and water bottles

This goes hand in hand with the water coolers. Providing staff with re-usable coffee mugs and water bottles can really support your efforts to stamp out single-use plastic cups and bottles in the office. Company branded mugs and bottles make a nice addition to your welcome pack for new employees and you might even want to extend this and provide biodegradable or refillable pens and notebooks too.


Work with suppliers

It’s not just staff that you can work with to reduce waste in your office. Do your suppliers offer alternative products to reduce plastic waste? Or is it even just possible to send deliveries with less plastic packaging? As the client, you have more sway than you realise – especially with the current media hype surrounding plastic where people are taking to social media to shame companies who are using excessive and pointless plastic packaging.

When thinking about reducing the amount of plastic that your organisation uses, it’s important that you are not disheartened or overwhelmed by the scale of what you currently use. It’s unlikely that you will be able to cut out plastic from your operations entirely but there are many creative steps your organisation can take to replace, remove, reduce and reuse plastic. Slowly cutting away at your plastic usage over time will make a difference and all these little steps will contribute to making a big difference.



Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 08 November 2019


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