Tips & Advice

  • The perennial plastic problem: How to cut back

How to cut back on plastics in your business

How to cut back on plastics in your business

Pat Jennings of the CIWM provides top tips on identifying how to cut out plastics in your business:


• Eliminate single-use plastics where suitable alternatives exist, e.g. plastic cups, stirrers, straws, cutlery and non-recyclable transit packaging.

Where plastic products and packaging can’t be avoided, ask suppliers if they can offer more sustainable alternatives. These will depend on the function and application of the product but options include lightweighting to use less plastic, specifying products with more recycled content, assessing whether a different polymer type might offer a better environmental outcome, and reducing multi-material formats that may be hard to recycle.

> Related | Single-use plastics: Saving sea life by scaling back

• For unavoidable plastic waste, work with your contractor on optimising your recycling performance by separating out plastic waste in the most effective way.


• Get up to speed on so called bioplastics because the name covers a multitude of materials, not all of which offer the environmental outcomes you might expect.

Some are so called because they’re plant based rather than fossil fuel-based, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re any more recyclable than conventional plastics. They reduce fossil fuel consumption and come from a renewable source but can still pose the same problems at the point of becoming a waste.


• Consider materials labelled degradable, biodegradable and compostable carefully as these characteristics are often based on a particular set of conditions or treatment options, without which they may contaminate existing plastic waste collection and treatment routes.


• There are lots of rigid plastics in business environments, particularly in electrical applications. Specifying remanufactured items, choosing more modular products that can be repaired or upgraded more easily, and specifying recycled content- in building products such as ducting or pipes, for example – will contribute to a more sustainable approach to plastics.