EJF's London office has been single-use plastic free for 7 weeks and to overcome the challenges we have met, we are getting organised.
Here is what we have been doing to tackle our plastic waste.
Our office is situated very close to Exmouth food market in Islington, London. The market boasts vegetarian, vegan and free range options, but it is hard to find lunch that is not in plastic.
Since going plastic free, we have been limited to the stalls who don't use disposable plastic containers.
Rather than restrict our choices, we plan to be talking to the stall holders, and to the market's lunchtime customers, in the hope of finding an effective way around this waste.
The variety of snacks we can bring into the office has also plummeted.
The only plastic free snack we can find at the local Coop is a cardboard box of tangerines. Whilst being packaged in cardboard, the question still remains - is this better for the environment? Taking into account air miles and pesticide use, is buying fruit better than buying biscuits wrapped in plastic? Over the next week we will be trying to answer some of the questions raised, and will be sharing them as we learn.
EJF want to be able to make an informed decision about the environmental impact of the organisation's shopping habits. The options without plastic are so limited that it makes it difficult not to end up feeling like you have compromised somewhere.
We will be writing to the Coop asking them to take accountability for the plastic waste they are responsible for. In London, we are lucky to have many alternatives. Sometimes these take more time to get to, or are more expensive. But avoiding plastic packaging is often possible. For many people however, either due to mobility issues or a lack of options locally, supermarkets, whether small or large, are the only option. This means supermarkets, and their local or metro versions, have a responsibility to provide plastic free options, and ensure that people have the option of making environmentally informed purchasing decisions.
Since we can no longer buy our afternoon snacks at the Coop, staff members have been taking turns to cook and to bake.
This has raised it's own dilemmas. Committing to a plastic free office is futile if we just defer the plastic use to our homes. To have a real impact we will need to make sure our actions are truly reducing the amount of plastic we use. To do this we will first be researching the real impacts of different materials, including alternatives to plastic to see if they are helping. We will also be working together, to order locally grown fruit to be delivered, plastic free, to the office as well as each of us taking a closer look at our local area to see what we can buy that does not come in plastic.
The office needs to stay clean, but cleaning products always come in small sizes, and in wasteful plastic. Since eradicating single-use plastic we have started ordering our cleaning products from Splosh. Rather than throw out the containers, we can replace the contents when it runs out. This cuts out any plastic waste when it comes to cleaning essentials for the office.
We discovered that not many people in the office drink milk. Yet this has perhaps been the hardest challenge to overcome.
There is nowhere near the office that sells milk without a plastic container.
Milk delivery is making a come back, and we looked into getting glass bottles delivered. But as the office is in central London, this was much more difficult to arrange than expected - we couldn't find somewhere to leave the money or the bottles that would be safe. To get around this, one of our Video Producers has volunteered to add the office milk to her own order and cycle in with it.
Ordering in Bulk
We have discovered that ordering in bulk is a great way to avoid plastic waste. Our coffee is already ordered in bulk for those who drink it and we are currently organising loose tea leaf deliveries. This therefore required us to get a tea pot for the tea.
As we have started to replace plastic covered biscuits for tangerines, we are looking into expanding on this and getting a weekly delivery of fruit for the office. This is another hidden benefit - in getting organised we have also started getting healthy.
We are monitoring our weekly progress by collecting all the unavoidable single-use plastic that comes into the office each week.
The first image is our plastic waste from week one and the second from week seven. We have managed to cut down on single use plastic each week as we learn about plastic free alternatives.
Follow our progress as we continue to go single-use plastic free
We have managed to make clear progress in reducing the amount of plastic we are wasting. At the same time, this has raised questions around plastic use and the best alternatives. EJF believe in taking an evidence based approach to all our campaigns, and this personal commitment is no different. We will be doing the research to help others go plastic free and sharing what we learn.
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- Follow EJF's intern as she goes completely plastic free for two weeks