Plastic – not so fantastic

Monica Or, columnist and Hospitality Consultant at Star Quality Hospitality Consultancy discusses how banning plastic straws is just the start for our industry..

According to recent BBC news it was in 1907 that the world was first introduced to a modern plastic, called Bakelite. Soon after, improvements in manufacturing brought the cost of mass production of plastic down dramatically. Plastic was hailed as an amazing substance as it is lightweight, tough, transparent and waterproof.

A hundred years later it is a totally different story. According to Science Magazine as of 2015, 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste has been generated. Of this:
9% is recycled
12% is incinerated
79% accumulated in landfill or the natural environment.

If current production and waste management trends continue roughly 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfill and our natural environment by 2050.

The problem with plastic is that very little of it can be recycled and the majority ends up in landfill. As plastic packaging is discarded, it contaminates our oceans. Greenpeace say the equivalent of a truck full of rubbish ends up being dumped in the sea every minute. It is estimated that there is already over 150 million tonnes of plastic in our worlds oceans. Marine life are getting caught up and trapped in it, causing death and some are eating it which is killing them off which was highlighted in the Blue Planet II documentary.

Since the plastic bag charge has been in place, in England there has been an 85% drop in their use, as people move to tote bags.

Recently more hospitality establishments are banning plastic straws and moving to paper straws. MacDonald’s use 1.8 million straws a day and will be moving to papers straws by September, having now sourced a paper straw manufacturer that has just set up in Wales. Many hotels and restaurants already have a ban in place. Even Her Majesty The Queen has banned plastic straws and bottles from the Royal estate after working with Sir David Attenborough on a conservation documentary.

Coffee houses are encouraging people to bring in a re-useable cup and giving them discounts for doing so. Although this is just the tip of the iceberg. Think about all the ways plastic is used in your daily life from plastic food wrap, cotton buds, cocktail stirrers to kitchen utensils and storage boxes.

Some simple ways to avoid using plastic:
– Encourage customer to use their own re-useable coffee cups
– Ban plastic straws and only offer paper straws if a straw is requested
– Use glass jars for storage
– Avoid ‘non-toxic’ glitter to decorate food which is made from plastic, use edible flowers instead
– Use china and glass crockery rather than disposable plates and cups, which often have a plastic film and cannot be recycled
– Grow your own which will cut down on wasteful packaging.

Banning plastic is just the start, because the bigger picture is to run our establishments in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way. Looking at ways of how we can give back to what we are taking away from the planet. This might be through planting trees to monitoring water consumption and how we manage our waste.

About Monica Or: As the founder of Star Quality Hospitality Consultancy, Monica specialises in working operationally with the owner/managers of independent hotels and restaurants focusing on their business structure and service delivery. She is the Amazon Best Selling author of ‘Star Quality Hospitality – The Key to a Successful Hospitality Business’ and ‘Star Quality Experience – The Hotelier’s Guide to Creating Memorable Guest Journeys’.
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