It’s good to see that reducing our plastic use is still in the news with national initiatives likely to lead to the end of plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers.

As we talk to people about the Plastic Free Letchworth project we hear about changes people are making in their own lives as well as changes being made in their workplace and business. There is a growing understanding that the solution to the plastics problem will involve us changing what we do as individuals as well as businesses changing.

Locally, lots is happening. The cupcake company on the Wynd have been making some changes, they have paper bags and have joined the refill app (taking away the fridge full of drinks in plastic bottles). They are also providing hot drinks in a mug for a small deposit which you get back on the return of the mug. So next time your children are playing pirates on the ship why not pop across for a cuppa. I have to admit when we visited them we could not leave the shop without a slice of one of their yummy cakes!

Willmott Dixon, who are based in the Spirella and undertake building work locally, have been working hard to reduce their use of plastics and have shared with us some good ideas that other offices might want to consider. Here’s what they have done:

  • Plastic water bottles have been replaced by glass bottles for meetings, with tap water refill.
  • The drinks machine has been removed and plastic cups are no longer purchased.
  • Recycling bins have been put in the kitchens for plastic food packaging.
  • Staff are encouraged to use reusable lunch boxes and cutlery / crockery is provided in the kitchen, so there is no need to use disposable plastics.
  • Thermal drinks cups have been provided for drinks for use on the move.
  • An alternative milk supplier is being sought who can provide glass bottles instead of plastic bottles where practicable.
  • The Sustainable Procurement Plan is being revisited from a plastic perspective.
  • Buffet suppliers ‘Lunchmate’ and ‘Chilli Banana’ no longer issue plastic cutlery and are looking at alternatives to the plastic boxes used for salads.
  • Plastic platters provided for buffets have always been collected and re-used.

In a recent walk around Letchworth we identified 32 restaurants and take-aways, and take-away containers has been a topic of conversation. Some businesses have been moving to compostable dishes and cups (e.g vegware) but how should customers dispose of products which require an industrial rather than home composting process? Guidance is being sought from the waste team at the council,  but we are keen that plastic free solutions are part of a circular economy and not just incinerated. This Guardian article highlights the issues around using biodegradable and compostable products and makes the point  that the best thing we can do is take our own reusable containers to the take away and move away from single use items. Hopefully we are getting there, Morrisons definitely is, it was heartening to see their poster this week telling us we could take our containers to their meat and fish counters.

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