People are creatures of habit and it's natural to feel daunted to make changes. But there's a fast growing number of single-use plastic free alternatives, especially for the hospitality sector.
Today, we produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.
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Alternative sustainable suppliers are listed below.
1. Plastic Water Bottles
More than 1 million plastic bottles are sold every minute and they take 450 years to break down into micro-plastics. Water in aluminium bottles provides a circular solution to plastic pollution as aluminium is infinitely recyclable. The water also chills faster and the screw cap makes the bottles reusable. There is no contact between the water and aluminium as the cans are lined in food safe material that doesn't effect its recyclability.
Approximately 75% of all aluminium that has ever been produced is still in use world-wide, and a large part of it has already been recycled many times.
2. Plastic Bags
There are 5 trillion plastic bags used world-wide each year and each of these take 20 years to break down into micro-plastics.
Degradable and biodegradable bags are NOT a good alternative. In a study published in Environmental Science and Technology (April 2019), researchers put eco-friendly bags made from various organic plastic materials to the test. None of the bags broke down completely after 3 years of being buried in the garden, submerged in ocean water or exposed to light.
Biodegradable means it will break down at some point in the future, whether it's months or years, which is quite misleading and still a threat to wildlife.
In a study from the University of Plymouth, compostable bags dissolved in sea water within three months , causing less harm to marine life.
Although manufacturing a paper bag takes about four times as much energy as it takes to produce a plastic bag, it may still be the best solution in the meantime.
BioCups are independently certified to AS4736 and when disposed of in an industrial compost facility they will completely biodegrade into a non-toxic, high-quality compost without leaving behind any microplastics.
3. Coffee cups & lids
500 billion disposable coffee cups are produced globally each year. Most coffee cups are lined with about 5% plastic to prevent leakage, which does not make them recyclable or compostable. 90% of coffee cups end up in landfill so the most eco-friendly alternative is to encourage customers to bring re-usable cups.
For single use, Compostable coffee cups are best, made sustainably from FSC paper and lined with plant-based resin, not petroleum or plastic based. However most compostable coffee cups are still not certified as marine degradable due to the lining, so they need to be properly disposed.
Plastic cutlery hardly gets recycled as it's too lightweight, small and contaminated, so it ends up being a complete waste. There are now sustainable wood or bamboo options but reusable metal cutlery is always best if possible.
Styrofoam is expanded polystyrene, which is another type of plastic that can be expanded into foam with 95% air. Styrofoam causes a big problem in the ocean due to its buoyancy as this allows it to float down waterways, then into the ocean where it breaks down and mistaken for food by marine life.
Plastic takeaway containers are still widely used and it's best to check if the container can be recycled by checking out this guide. It's good to reuse plastic containers but plastic is generally better for storing dry foods and they are definitely not good for using in the microwave. The containers should not be used if they are cracked or discoloured.
Sustainable paper, cardboard or fibre moulded containers are eco-friendly alternatives, but PFAS chemicals (poly-fluorinated alkyl substances) are used in some of these containers to make them grease and water resistant. It is best to double check with the supplier if their containers are PFAS free, and if not, what type of PFAS is used and if it's been tested to prove safe levels.
500 million plastics straws are used in the US each day and a single straw takes 200 years to break down. It is also a top 10 plastic item found on beach clean up days. There are many plastic-free alternatives including metal, agave and bamboo which are reusable. Paper, seaweed and wheat hay straws are natural single-use alternatives.
Loliware, the producers of seaweed straws, term their product as 'hyper-compostable' to convey their straws will break down at the same rate as food, in the compost or the natural environment such as the ocean. This is an important distinction from bio-plastics, which are not marine degradable.
Wheat hay drinking straws are made from wheat stems, which would otherwise be wasted and in some cases even burned, causing air pollution. They are also 100% biodegradable within 42 days.
Sources: Data from WorldWatch Institute, EPA, NRDC, NAPCOR,
Container Recycling Institute, National Geographic Institute.
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