Plastic pollution (and the impact it’s having on the planet) has featured heavily in the media in recent years. In 2016, National Geographic reported that 8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste ends up in our oceans every year – the equivalent of a full bag of rubbish ‘for every foot of coastline in the world.’ We’ve all seen the evidence circulating online; sadly, photos of marine life tangled in discarded plastic and videos of coastlines brimming with waste won’t be unfamiliar features in many of our social media feeds.
To prevent the problem from becoming worse, environmentalists everywhere are calling for bans on all kinds of disposable plastic products (such as straws, coffee cups and plastic eating utensils). People around the globe are formulating innovative solutions to the problems they’re seeing in the environments around them – from surfers in the UK, to fishermen in India. Organisations are also beginning to take responsibility for resolving this growing problem, with over 40 companies signing the UK Plastics Pact which aims to transform the plastic packaging sector over the next seven years.
It’s World Environment Day on 5th June 2018, and this year’s theme is #BeatPlasticPollution. Although there’s no overnight solution to the problem, we can all play a role in helping to prevent further damage to our environment – including reducing plastic waste in our workplaces. If you want to raise awareness on this issue in your office and begin to make some all-important changes, we’ve listed eight ideas and resources below to help you and your colleagues get started:
Bring people together
With so many reports and news stories on the effects plastic pollution has on the planet, it’s unlikely that you’ll be the only person in your office who’s passionate about making positive changes. Send an email to your colleagues to find out who’s interested in creating a greener office, and gather a team of like-minded people to get things moving.
Conduct a plastic audit
The World Environment Day website provides a range of toolkits to help spread the word and introduce positive changes. One of their recommendations is that organisations carry out a plastic audit, to find out exactly how much disposable plastic is being used. Following the audit, organisations can then begin to set targets and goals for reducing waste. Download the Guide for Organisations to learn more about the process, and speak to your team to get your audit underway.
Get to grips with your recycling scheme
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is a registered charity working with governments, businesses and communities, which aims to ‘accelerate the move to a sustainable, resource-efficient economy.’ They provide a recycling guide for offices, full of facts on what can and can’t be recycled – along with advice on how to set up an effective recycling scheme in your workplace.
If you’ve got a recycling scheme in place, take a closer look at it to make sure your office is recycling as efficiently as possible – and raise any issues or areas for improvement with your organisation.
Avoid bottled water
The NRDC estimates that nearly 20 billion plastic bottles are thrown away every year. If you buy bottled water during your working hours, try carrying a reusable water bottle or opting to use glasses from your office kitchen instead. You could also approach your leaders to ask them to consider water filters or filter taps for your workplace, to replace any bottled water.
Bring a bag
Do you regularly pop out of the office to pick up lunch, or something for dinner for when you get home? If so, consider keeping a reusable bag in your desk drawer. Carrier bags can take between 10 and 20 years to decompose in the sea, and National Geographic recently reported that a plastic bag has been found at the bottom of the world’s deepest ocean trench.
Ditch disposable cups and cutlery
Following the eye-opening TV series Blue Planet ll, the BBC has pledged to ban all single-use cutlery by 2020. The first step in their three-part plan involves ditching items found in many offices across the UK – plastic cups and cutlery.
If your office provides both disposable and non-disposable coffee cups or cutlery, avoid using the plastic that’s on offer. Better still, approach your leaders to find out if the disposable cutlery is really necessary – could they cut it out altogether? If your office doesn’t provide reusable items, consider bringing your own in from home.
Spread the word
If you decide to carry out a plastic audit in your organisation, make sure you share the results with everyone in your workplace. You’ll need to be sure everyone understands what needs to be done to bring about positive change – and your enthusiasm could encourage your colleagues to embrace a new way of doing things. You could also spread the word via social media, to let your customers and associates know about the fantastic changes you’ve got planned.
Get stuck in
The World Environment Day’s Guide for Organisations invites companies to take a hands-on approach when celebrating the event. They suggest finding an area near to your workplace in need of a clean-up – a stretch of coastline, a river or community space, for example – and gathering a team to get rid of any litter. You could organise a similar event with your team, to encourage your colleagues to make your local environment better for everyone – whilst also raising awareness on the issue of plastic pollution.
How will your organisation celebrate World Environment Day? Does your workplace already take measures to reduce waste? We’d love to hear your plans – let us know via Twitter, Facebook or in the comments section below.