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The final straw?

This year has seen a war unleashed on single-use plastic in
the UK.

Everywhere you look, companies are vowing to switch to
environmentally-friendly, biodegradable alternative options. Even the royal
family is getting in on the act, with Princess Eugenie announcing she will be
organising a plastic-free wedding to show her commitment to the movement.

Our industry has long been hot on plastic thanks to green
meetings and CSR initiatives – but the events of 2018 have focused minds on the
issue, not least among suppliers.

Simon Clayton, chief
ideas officer at RefTech says that single-use badges at events are often
made of plastic and so measures have to be taken to ensure that they are
re-used or recyclable.

“We produce three types of badges – each one is recyclable,”
he says. “Our ‘peel and stick’ butterfly badges are easily recyclable in
household waste, as too the wallets that our paper badges fit in to. We worked
hard to source laminated badges that were sustainably sourced and were
compostable.

“We set up a recycling process for the plastic credit-card
style badges some years ago so that clients can send them back to us and we
send them to be recycled in a secure document shredding & recycling
facility. We also work with a supplier to promote lanyards made from bamboo
because it’s a fast-growing crop, it supports local economies in China as well
as being more environmentally-friendly than nylon.

“Many events do ask delegates to return their plastic
wallets so that they can be re-used at future events, but many don’t because of
the time needed to empty them and sort them. Recycling them is the next best
step.”

London event caterer Seasoned began its fight against
plastic in the summer of 2015, transitioning from using bottled mineral water
to sustainable water, saving more than 15,000 single-use plastic bottles a
year. In 2017 Seasoned eliminated plastic straws and this year it has switched
from plastic canapé skewers to bamboo, as well as committing to completely
eliminating bottled mineral water across all venues by the end of 2018.

Managing partner Colin Sayers says “The fight against
plastic is real and as an event caterer serving multiple venues across the
capital, we feel we have a responsibility to the wider community to make a
positive impact where we can. We’re incredibly proud that our initiatives
against single-use plastic have gone from strength to strength, with straws
alone we have saved over 10,000 plastic straws from going to landfill.”

The caterer is also working on introducing a non-plastic
reusable bottle that promotes safe sustainable water usage, speaking to its
dairy supplier about alternative options to plastic containers, and organising a
plastic pick up along Southend beach in September to experience the impact
first hand.

Birmingham residential conference venue Conference Aston is the latest business in the city
to announce it will be removing all single-use plastic food and drink
packaging across its hotel and meeting suites.

The venue has swapped plastic straws for sustainable,
biodegradable paper alternatives, and only glass bottles and canned drinks are
served at the bar. In the restaurant, disposable food packaging for things like
butter, jam and other condiments is also being removed while in the hotel,
water stations are provided instead of plastic bottled water.

Plant-based disposable cardboard cups and takeaway breakfast
boxes are also being introduced into the business for customers while plastic
pens have been replaced with pencils in the meeting suites.

“Plastic pollution is  a major issue that is causing
significant damage to our environment, wildlife and marine-life,” says Samantha
Brown, head of Conference Aston.

“It takes up to 200 years for a single plastic straw to
decompose and, like many hospitality businesses, we were using hundreds of
single-use plastic straws every year – the maths speaks for itself.

“As an eco-friendly business with over 50,000 guests through
our doors each year, we feel it is important to join the plastic-free movement
and do what we can to help reduce the devastating impact that the excessive use
of plastic is causing.”

You can read more about what the industry is doing on
single-use plastic – and how you can take action – in our cover feature on the
topic in the September issue of M&IT.