Since the seventies, plastic is everywhere. Revolutionary material, due to its features – light, modular and cheap – plastic has become a key material for many sectors. Tourism and events are no exception.
But more recent uses of plastic have allowed to make single-used products (cup, bags, cutlery etc.) to serve spontaneous consumption. Short-lived, they don’t always enter circular circles, and too often finish in the nature.
Taking into account health, logistics and environmental considerations, how can single-use packaging be avoided, reduced, reused or recycled? We’ll share with you some key tips !
- In the last 75 years, globally, 3/4 of the plastic material produced has become a waste, and among those, only 9% has been recycled
- 36% of the current plastic production is dedicated to packaging (UNEP). The Fondation Ellen Mac Arthur mentions that 95% of plastic packaging material value is estimated to be lost after a short first use cycle (representing up to $80-120 billion)
- In 2050 our oceans will be populated equally by plastics and fish if we do not change the way we produce, use and dispose of plastics.
Identify: Which kind of waste related to single-use packaging ends up in your bins?
- Food & Beverage: delivery packages, plastic cups, straws, bottles…
- Sanitaries: shower amenities…
- Bedroom : plastic bottles, plastic bags…
Set out trash containers: learn more.
Measure / estimate: How many items are you distributing on average per day? How many end up in your bins? Follow up on key indicators: learn more.
Think a step ahead ! Single-use plastics are gradually being banned worldwide (especially in Europe where the European Commission adopted in 2018 a new regulation)
Source: UNEP – national bans on plastic bags
#1 Bulk purchasing
Many essential products can be purchased in bulk (bars of soap, vegetables, cereal, rice, milk, coffee, tea…). To store them, use sealed containers (in glass for example) to avoid plastic wrapping or aluminum foil.
Possible if: you use different reusable containers to collect the products from your suppliers.
Save money: bulk purchasing can offer competitive prices.
Require anticipation: planning skills and adjustments will be necessary.
Not always possible
- Pandobac provides reusable boxes for groceries stores’ orders of fruits and vegetables. Intermediary between the producer and the customer/retailer, their logistic chain also provides a collection system with cleaning process.
- Watch this short video (in french)
#2 Offer alternatives to plastic
Plastic bags, shower amenities… You don’t have to always give single use products to your clients: you can give only if requested at the desk, share to your customers products with longer life-span, such as (recycled) paper bags, or sell textile bags. You may install large refillable shampoo bottle attached to the wall rather than miniature toiletries
Possible if: no conditions, just ensure the sustainability of the products you give instead
Reputational, show that you care
Differentiate, by upcycling the products you give
Require anticipation and planning skills
- Did you know, that within a year, a 100-bedroom hotel (75% occupancy) gives clients around 23,400 miniature plastic toiletry bottles (Travel Without Plastic)
- With time you can even make your own DIY bags by upcycling paper waste (example) or plastic waste (La Fille du Facteur).
- You may find further alternatives (linen canvas, basket, grab… bags) to plastic ones here or here
- One of the barrier for hotels to adopt refillable dispenser for soap and shampoo is because of esthetic and brand exposure. Aquamenities provides a sophisticated and customizable dispenser for hotel needs, with a broad choice of eco-friendly suppliers, turning a barrier into a win-win situation !
- If you really want to give your clients individual soaps, you could give solid soaps, which can then be recycled and reused by charities such as Unisoap, Clean the world, or Soap Aid to help WASH stakes
#3 Container deposit
Charging an extra fee, you can offer reusable plastic plates or glass jars instead of disposable ones. Clients will be refunded after returning the containers. You can also offer preferential prices or discounts for clients to incentivize them to use the deposit system.
Possible if: you have enough space to keep the containers/cutlery after the event.
If you respect public health and safety standards.
If you ensure that cleaning won’t require too much water or energy
Differentiate yourself: discounts for the deposit users could attract new customers.
Cost money: sunk costs will occur at the beginning but will be absorbed on the long term by saving on disposable packaging.
- LOOP is a revolutionary circular shopping platform launched in 2019 (in the US and France as a start), that transforms the packaging of everyday essentials, from food to body products (Häagen-Dazs, Pantene, Nestlé, the Body Shop, PepsiCo…). Loop hygienically cleans and sanitizes the empty packaging sent back so they are ready for reuse. All packaging is made to be recycled at the end of their life.
>> Learn more from Terracycle shopping system
- Nu! is an intelligent fridge which allows easy access to zero waste lunches at your work place. With an app on your cellphone, you can unlock the fridge and pick the lunchbox. Once you brought back the containers, Nu takes care of collecting and cleaning them!
#4 Sustainable containers
Eatable, compostable or recyclable: ensure the ecoconception of the items. The most compostable components are paper, board or bagasse.
Possible if: you find a partner who is able to recycle, compost or produce energy from your compostable containers.
Be careful and aware about what is hidden behind the word “compostable”, watch video below!
Show that you care and gain people trust
Usually more expensive than other packaging.
Image: show that you care !
Esthetic, benefitting from unique pieces.
- Whilelmina in Philippine, help women in rural communities to construct chairs made from plastic packaging, which were turned into thread reels.
- Koun in Morocco, creates products from everyday waste: paper, plastic bottles, plastic bags, cans. For example, they transform plastic plug into stool, and weave plastic bags into bags
- Terracycle office in New York is decorated by upcycling bottles and other products ! You may find more inspiration on pinterest, such as creating lamps from plastic cups (link)
#6 Recycle packaging
There are not one but different type of plastics, with different recycling solutions, such as chemical recycling or mechanical recycling. As an example, plastic bottles are made principally of PET and PEHD which ground into plastic granules, which can be reused to create new products
Possible if: Proper collecting and sorting are essential for recycling. Help your consumers and employees make the right gesture: clear signalization, available containers… and contact waste operators in order to collect and optimize your waste service.
Environmental : 1 tonne of PET can save up to 670 liter of water, of 2 tonnes of CO2 compare to virgin plastic.
Financial costs depending on your location
- Head and Shoulder, Terracycle and SUEZ are working together to transform plastic waste collected from European beaches into shampoo bottles
- In Cameroon, WasteAid transform plastic waste into paving tiles. Each tile contains 200 plastic bags
- My Precious Plastic, has created open access plans and tips, for individuals to create cool products such as bowls, sunglasses, coasters… made of recycled plastic waste
- As an individual, check with you local waste operator. For private actors, contact waste operating companies which will offer solutions based on your needs.
- Every Can Counts raises awareness in student and working communities around the importance of recycling. Whether it is at work, college, or university,the aim is to help people recycle their drinks can.
Main author of this article:
Thanks to all our authors and co-authors, as well as our experts and proofreaders, who contributed to improve the content or our articles. Like the entire toolbox, this article has been created collaboratively with :