Going Cold Turkey On Plastic
The speed with which our bins fill up at work is terrifying. Thinking about the amount of rubbish we humans generate is mind boggling.
We've been banging our food waste drum for a while, but recently it's been plastic pollution that's been troubling us. When we were given the opportunity to run a Pop-Up cafe in Covent Garden, we really wanted to make a stand and do our bit for the environment.
Some shocking statistics really booted our systems into gear:
- every single piece of plastic ever made still exists on earth somewhere as it takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade
- 50% of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away
- plastic constitutes approximately 90% of all waste floating on the ocean's surface
We started off by focusing on plastic free packaging and food storage which, in itself, was tricky due to our use of cling film, tupperware and plastic-lined food containers for take away as a catering company. We found alternatives through using glass, tin foil and unlined cardboard takeaway containers. Coffee cup lids were a big concern and we were so pleased to discover PLA alternatives, which is a plant-based plastic that composts with your food waste. Hooray! However on a larger scale even this wasn't a full solution as the technology is not there yet for PLA to be broken down with commercial food waste. On checking with Westminster City Council we were then advised to dispose of the coffee cup lids in general waste as it goes through EFW combustion, which uses waste as fuel to generate energy (power & heat). The biogenic contents of PLA means that the combustion of this material is carbon neutral, a big win!
With packaging and food storage in hand, we started really getting into the nitty-gritty of running a kitchen, which is when we began to realise that being 100% plastic free was heartbreakingly not feasible. There are unavoidable uses within a commercial kitchen, for example bin bags, ovens, fridges and freezers. We began to realise the extent of society's relationship with plastic. Further than being dependant on it for convenience and practicality, plastic is sadly ingrained into our everyday life especially as a fully functioning kitchen.
This was incredibly disheartening. Instead of giving up, we decided we had to stick to our guns even if it meant changing the goalposts slightly, so we are proud to say we were truly London's first 100% single-use-plastic free café. What this process highlighted for us is that the important thing is that we do the best we can, whether that's simply swapping plastic bags for totes for 1 week or whether you're up to the challenge of going all in plastic free. We all need to do our best to protect our planet, which means actively and consciously deciding to avoid plastic. Join us in the fight!