The War on Single-Use Plastics

08 August 2018

The topic of plastic waste has come to the forefront of the minds of both businesses and consumers. An estimated 50% of all plastic produced is single-use, and research shows that if current habits continue there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Following demand from consumers, and further motivated by the EU’s proposed ban on single-use plastics, businesses have put measures in place to reduce the amount of single-use plastic consumed.

Plastic straws are an issue that many companies are tackling. In May 2018, The Restaurant Authority of Ireland released a statement encouraging its 2,500 members to implement a ban on plastic straws in their restaurants. McDonald’s recently announced that it will no longer provide plastic straws in their restaurants across the UK and Ireland, opting for a paper alternative instead. The restaurant chain has also committed to having 100% of its packaging come from “renewable, recycled or certified” sources by 2025. Burger King also has a similar plan to phase out plastic straws in their restaurants.

Furthermore, the GAA announced that it was banning single-use plastic in Croke Park, with items such as straws, coffee cups and cutlery being replaced with environmentally friendly alternatives by the end of 2018. This shift in viewpoint is not just limited to the foodservice sector, with IKEA committing to removing all single-use plastic from its product range and in-store restaurants by 2020.

Single-use coffee cups produce a large amount of avoidable waste. A number of coffee chains, such as Insomnia, Frank & Honest and Bewley’s, have introduced compostable coffee cups at their locations. Other chains are encouraging consumers to bring their own reusable cup into store, eliminating the need for a takeaway cup entirely. Butler’s Chocolate Cafés, Lolly & Cooks and Caffè Nero are among some who offer discounts or other incentives to consumers who bring their own reusable cup. For example, Pret A Manger, the UK-based sandwich chain, offers a 50p discount on hot drinks to consumers who bring a reusable cup.

This movement away from single-use plastic aligns with consumers’ mindsets. Research conducted by Kantar found that 44% of consumers are concerned about single-use plastic, with 70% actively changing their behaviour regarding their consumption of the material. Findings as part of Bord Bia’s Consumer Lifestyle Trend “Responsible Living” also align, with a particular focus on the “War on Waste” sub-trend.