Mountains of plastic at landfill
Plastic waste in river

4 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution

The problems of plastic pollution are mounting, presenting imminent, ongoing threats to wildlife, ecosystems, and our own health. Microplastics, for example, have been found in nearly everything from fish to human breast milk – the consequences of which we’re sure to find out soon enough.

So there’s a pressing need to adjust how we create, use, and get rid of plastic. The solution here is one that requires multiple inputs: consumers need to force change by changing habits, and suppliers need to facilitate change by offering suitable alternatives. But this isn’t simply a case of supply and demand, the free market is likely to be too late to address the issues of pollution – and while it may develop a solution to them, too, at what cost will the wait be?

Here are some ways that we can begin reducing plastic pollution immediately, split into habitual and supply (production) categories.

Changing habits & demands
1. Changing habits in the workplace

A key step to making a real difference is to change habits in the workplace. Trying to opt for low-waste, plastic-free items wherever possible is a great place to start. Encourage staff to use reusable bottles for water, for example, and get rid of single-use cups for any beverages.

It’s important to facilitate these changes in the workplace by offering the means for staff to do so. Install a plumbed clean water point instead of a free-standing water cooler (you know, the stereotypical 4-gallon ones). This cuts out a huge amount of single-use plastic from the bottles.

Offering recycling points is a great way to make sure that waste is captured and recycled rather than ending up in landfill – but remember that the most important part of the reduce, reuse, recycle, system is the first one: reducing. Begin by removing as much single-use, non-biodegradable stuff as possible from your office – you’ll find your bins get much lighter!

2. Changing habits at home

Simultaneously, it’s important to encourage staff to change behaviours at home. The main work-related habit here would be to encourage staff to pre-make lunches wherever possible rather than relying on supermarket-bought lunches (often packaged entirely in single-use plastic). Opting, for example, for reusable glass tupperware for lunches allows for healthy, nutritious meals to be ready for work, and the glass won’t become hazardous waste when or if it’s ever disposed of.

3. Changing products & services

As important as personal habits are when it comes to reducing plastic waste, it’s extremely difficult to do so if the alternatives aren’t available – or aren’t available at an accessible price point. So it’s crucial to consider alternatives to your current products & services. A surprising amount of product packaging, for example, can be replaced with biodegradable, environmentally friendly alternatives without a reduction in quality.

Until quite recently, things like sandwiches seemed inevitably tied to plastic-based packaging. But plant-based plastics have not only been developed but have started to become commercially viable – ‘bioplastics’ like vegware, for example, are great alternatives to the linings in sandwich packets.

These are designed to break down in commercial composting conditions – though they’re still not ideal for marine conditions.

4. Changing supply chains

This last point is one about being an ambassador. It’s no good passing on the baton, so to speak, when it comes to pollution. If your waste is zero because your supplier is taking everything out of the box before they deliver it, then it’s no better for the environment!

Educating colleagues in your supply chain (even the onward chain) about the problems of plastic pollution and inspiring them to change practices not only builds trust and resilience all the way along the chain – but goes towards ensuring that pollution becomes a thing of the past.

Interested in paper-based packaging?

If you’re interested in ditching plastic and opting for beautiful, custom-designable paper-based packaging, then get in touch.

4 April 2023