28 Jun 2018

The guide focuses on six of the most widely used items: bottles, straws, coffee cups, takeaway packaging, cutlery and cling film.

The first sector-specific guide to help foodservice businesses find the best available alternatives to single-use plastics was launched on Monday by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).

The easy-to-use manual is designed to provide restaurants and other hospitality businesses, large and small, with all the essential information to ask the right questions in order to make the best long-term decisions about the millions of disposable items they use, from straws to bottles, cups to clingfilm.

Speaking before the launch of the toolkit at the SRA’s event Unwrapping Plastics: Use and Misuse in Hospitality, Andrew Stephen, Chief Executive of the SRA, said: “Plastics play a crucial role in the day to day operation of most food service businesses, and right now the sector is facing an unprecedented level of awareness and pressure over their environmental impact.

“There is a huge tide of willingness to tackle the pressing issue of single-use plastic. Many foodservice businesses have already taken the first step – acknowledging they have a plastic problem. A number have already acted decisively to ditch some items like straws. There are few in the industry though who feel fully confident about the available alternatives for their full range of disposables.

“We’ve created a toolkit to help the industry start to come to terms with its addiction to single-use plastic. It’s designed businesses better understand the realities of what they are using, what it’s made of and how they can actually dispose of it. Armed with this, we hope businesses will be better equipped to make informed decisions, making switches which are genuinely better for the environment, customers and business too.”

The guide focuses on six of the most widely used items: bottles, straws, coffee cups, takeaway packaging, cutlery and cling film, summarising all the different alternative material options, assessing their sustainability from production right through to disposal, providing operators with practical information about the items that will genuinely be recycled for example, rather than those that just have the potential to be so.

The SRA has partnered with ethical water company Belu on the toolkit and event. Karen Lynch, Belu CEO, said: “When faced with a challenge on plastics, the right solutions are those without unintended consequences. Working with The SRA is a great opportunity to understand the critical information you need to make the right choices for your business and the environment, the common pitfalls to avoid and, to upskill and share experiences and ideas.”

At the event, top chefs including Skye Gyngell of Spring and Neil Rankin of Temper are sharing their experience of taking single-use plastic out of their kitchens. At Spring for example, the realisation that they had used enough clingfilm to stretch from their central London location to Istanbul (3,600km) since opening, inspired Skye and her team first to seek a more sustainable material before coming to the realisation that they didn’t actually need to use film at all and have now stopped using it.

Skye said: “Single-use plastic is a really serious issue, but we shouldn’t be catasrophising it. Instead we should recognise that we are better off now than we were 50 years ago and face up to the fact that this is our challenge, our problem to solve now. It’s also really important to understand that it’s nowhere near as hard you think to use less plastic.”

Steve Packer, Director of Supply Chain at Pizza Hut Restaurants, will also be sharing the secrets of their successes as they seek to reduce plastic, as well as the ongoing challenges high street brands face. Waste businesses Paper Round and Bunzl will be imparting expert advice on a panel debate alongside the reusable packaging service Cup Club.

The SRA’s guide recommends a simple five-step plan as the essential starting point for any restaurant serious about reducing their reliance on single-use plastic.

1. Complete a plastic audit – a thorough assessment of what you’re using
2. Identify what’s essential
3. Set reduction targets
4. Ask suppliers for packaging specs
5. Get your waste contractor to details what they can and can’t recycle