Waving goodbye to plastic: How the hospitality industry can consider alternatives

A lot has changed in the world of waste management since Blue Planet II hit screens last year. The shocking images of polluted oceans were discussed in parliament, which resulted in a bid to ban plastic straws, and fuelled a nationwide desire to wave goodbye to plastic. With this in mind, the hospitality industry must continue to adapt in order to satisfy consumer demand for environmentally friendly practices.

According to the Drinks Business, the UK hospitality industry had a turnover of £98bn in 2017, the size of the industry along with its use of single-use plastic products, including many coffee cups and straws, makes it one of the most influential in the war against plastic and waste pollution.

The last straw

There has been a sharp increase in demand for plastic straw alternatives this year, as the hospitality industry begins to understand how introducing these new products can help operators and customers produce less plastic waste. Insight from Beacon supplier, Bunzl Catering Supplies suggests using alternatives including paper straws or compostable straws, which should be disposed of with food waste in a bin designed for compostable material, and sent to industrial composting facilities licensed to take such items. Alternatively, thick, clear polypropylene (PP) straws that maximise the chance of the straws being recycled if they are disposed of in a mixed recyclables bin could be introduced.

Wake up and smell the coffee

As well as the infamous straw, coffee cups have also been identified as a difficult to recycle product, due to the plastic lining which takes hundreds of years to break down. With figures from the British Coffee Association revealing that Brits drink over 95 million cups of coffee a day, it is unsurprising that so many plastic fragments end up in our oceans and waterways. Insight from Beacon’s supplier, Direct Seafoods has revealed that plastic pollution has affected over 267 species worldwide, indicating that operators should look further than just straw substitutes when reviewing their plastic waste. Using recyclable packaging is another way operators can improve their waste management.

The perfect package

Compostable containers are becoming increasingly popular with operators as they begin to seek environmentally friendly methods of waste disposal. There are a vast range of products on, and entering, the market, with Beacon’s supplier, Alliance recently introducing Vegware; eco-friendly, compostable containers and packaging products including cups, takeaway containers and cutlery. Utilising these products is a small but mighty change that operators can make, which will benefit both brand image and the environment.

Not just food and drink

Beacon’s supplier Gilchrist & Soames states that consumers are also leaning towards green and eco bath products, which is why exploring plastic free ranges outside catering is also key. Its Beekind range of shampoos, conditioners and body wash is eco-friendly and can be recycled to make items including waste baskets, showing there are options outside of the kitchen or bar to help tackle the plastic problem.

The end result

With demand currently outweighing supply, businesses should expect little room for price negotiations and be prepared to invest in products short term, but this will deliver benefits in the long term. With consumers becoming more environmentally aware, operators should take into consideration the associated positive brand perception of adapting offerings, or the risks associated with not doing so.

By hospitality purchasing firm Beacon

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