Sheffield Action on Plastic is a new organisation set up to work with the Sheffield community to reduce single-use plastics. Their immediate focus is on developing Sheffield’s Reusable Revolution, helping businesses and event organisers to switch to reusables, hosting plastic-free markets and raising awareness of single-use plastics and their devastating impact on our world. They have recently joined ShefFood as a partner and signed the Sheffield Food Charter. When we’re thinking about making the food system better for people and the planet, it’s not only the food itself we have to consider but everything else that’s involved, too, from packaging to distribution. Sustainability includes what your food comes in, so since it’s Plastic-Free July, it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about why we need to ditch single-use and how Sheffield businesses can do it this year.
Who are Sheffield Action on Plastic?
Sheffield Action on Plastic is a local environmental community organisation whose mission is to work with residents, businesses and organisations in our community to reduce single-use plastics. Their objectives are:
- Run a reusable cup hire scheme to reduce waste and the need for single-use disposable cups.
- Running events and providing advice to businesses, communities and individuals on reducing single-use plastics
- Run the Plastic Free Sheffield Central campaign and offer awards and publicity to businesses and community organisations who are working to reduce single-use plastics.
The group is run entirely by volunteers, and everyone is welcome to get involved in this exciting and rewarding campaign.
Why Plastic-Free is Vital
The food-to-go sector, which includes businesses like cafes, fast food outlets and coffee chains, is a massive source of plastic pollution. Before the pandemic hit, 75% of the British public bought their lunch on the go daily, generating a hard-to-swallow 11 billion packaging waste a year. That’s 276 items per person every year! A study of 1,200 workers found that the average lunch order had four packaged items, including sandwiches, crisps and snacks.
Unsurprisingly, packaging from takeaway food and drinks such as disposable coffee cups and takeaway containers are littering our streets, parks, rivers and beaches and are now consistently in the top 10 items found on beaches in the UK and Europe. Of course, these plastics cause a massive risk to wildlife that can be trapped in them or eaten by them. But that’s only the start of the devastation. Over time, these plastics break down into microplastics (Measuring less than 5mm across), which have been found in even the remotest of places on Earth. These microplastics are found in our water sources, food, and even our bloodstream. Research suggests the toxic chemicals in these materials could cause many health issues in our human and animal communities.
We must acknowledge that plastics do have their place in society. This includes single-use plastics, which can help people with disabilities lead a more independent, comfortable and often safer life. However, reducing new plastic entering the cycle and removing the microplastics already in our environment is essential for us all.
Starting in 2011, the Plastic Free July campaign is an award-winning movement resulting from years of hard work. An initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation, the campaign is focused on people across the world working together towards a vision of a plastic-free planet. The campaign has immense support globally, and Sheffield Action on Plastic is the organisation making an impact in our local community.
What Actions Can Businesses Take?
To put an end to plastic pollution, we need to turn off the tap when it comes to single-use plastics. Policies must change. While we completely appreciate the challenges the sector faces, we need to act now. Businesses in the food-to-go sector need to be ambitious, committed and transparent about their reduction and reuse targets and whether they meet them. Here’s what actions businesses and organisations can take in Sheffield today!
- Don’t sell water in plastic bottles – water can be sold in glass bottles or aluminium cans.
- Use compostable bagasse containers for takeaway containers.
- Use wooden cutlery instead of plastic cutlery, or even better, encourage and/or incentivise customers to bring in their own cutlery.
- Only use paper bags and not plastic bags with a charge, but most importantly, encourage and/or incentivise customers to bring their own bags.
- Allow the public to bring their water bottle into your business and sign up as a Refill Station on the Refill app.
- If you offer takeaway hot drinks, allow the public to bring their own reusable coffee cup and publicise this or incentivise with a discount. Sign up as a Refill Station on the Refill app. You can also express interest in a Sheffield Cup scheme run by Sheffield Action on Plastics.
- If you sell takeaway cakes or snacks, allow the public to bring their own reusable container and publicise this or incentivise with a discount. Sign up as a Refill Station on the Refill app
- Use refillable coffee machines such as bean-to-cup coffee machines, French Press, ground coffee, pump espresso machines or cafetières. And use reusable and refillable coffee pods such as Waycap, Fill ‘n’ Save, Eko-Brew, Keurig, Sealpod, MyCoffeeStar or Recaps – make sure they fit your machine before purchasing!
- Provide ‘nude’ foods like cookies in a jar and loose fruit in a basket.
- Use glass bottles for sauces rather than sachets.
- Provide milk in reusable jugs or flasks – no single-use milk portions. Consider using milk churns for your milk, as the University of Sheffield does with Our Cow Molly.
- Don’t provide individually wrapped sweets at the end of the meal.
- To keep food fresh, use washable coverings for bowls or containers, beeswax or vegan wraps, or just use sealed Tupperware and glass containers
- In your kitchens, buy bulk washing-up liquid, hand soap, and anti-bacterial spray and then refill at zero waste shops when empty.
- Show your support for a Reusable Revolution in Sheffield
From 1st October 2023, businesses must no longer supply, sell or offer certain single-use plastic items in England, such as plastic plates, trays and bowls. You can prepare your business for the new rules by using up existing stock before the 1st of October, finding reusable alternatives to single-use items and using different materials for single-use items that are more sustainable. Sheffield Action on Plastic can help you make the transition, so get in touch if you are looking for support.
We can all do our bit to reduce our plastic use, and we are excited to see the campaigns and events Sheffield Action on Plastic will be running over the next few years. To learn more, visit their website: https://sheffieldactiononplastic.co.uk/
Businesses can sign up to become an official business supporter at https://sheffieldactiononplastic.co.uk/become-a-sheffield-action-on-plastic-supporter and for those that would like to get involved they can donate to their Crowdfunder https://chuffed.org/project/sheffield-action-on-plastic