The “P” Word

Heart of the City’s Operations Officer and resident environmental enthusiast, Jodie Thwaites shares some ideas for how businesses can tackle the plastic plague.


Plastic is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment. It’s the hot topic, largely thanks to publicity brought about from the fantastic Blue Planet 2. There’s been plenty of discussion on what we, as individuals, should and shouldn’t be doing, especially with regards to shopping and supermarkets. But how can you, as a business leader, support your colleagues and employees to banish plastic from your workplace? And where do you start?

Ye olde disposable cup

It’s an ancient, primitive receptacle and also one of the most publicised issues recently… the disposable cup, (particularly the millions of coffee cups used daily across London). Notoriously hard to recycle, we have covered this issue before when highlighting the Hubbub Square Mile Challenge.

Reusable cups are gaining in popularity, driven by discounts offered by the big coffee chains. Why not provide your coffee drinking colleagues with a reusable mug and consider adding some nice branding on there as well for a bit of free advertising! Quite understandably though, the take-up of these can be a bit slow. People need convenience and want something that’s easy, so ensure the cup is dishwasher safe to take away a bit of pain from the process!

And last but not least, everyones’ favourite impromptu meeting location – the water dispenser. Don’t get me started on those impractical plastic bottle dispensers that get delivered to offices.. even if you can’t a fancy filter tap, at least make sure your organisation has removed the plastic cups!

Cleaning up the canteen

Staff canteens can be one of the worst offenders when it comes to plastics, often giving away huge amounts of disposable plastic cutlery and straws. There are plenty of alternatives including reusable cutlery, paper straws and compostable takeaway boxes. Stop being in such a hurry to rush back to your desk and encourage staff to have lunch in, take a proper break and reduce your plastic use at the same time!

Tackling the tea club

It’s not just the coffee drinkers that are contributing to the plastic plague. You might be interested to know that many teabags still contain plastic. It was only a couple of months ago that PG tips announced it was switching to fully biodegradable teabags, but many others still haven’t made the change. A quick Google of your favourite brands will let you know if they are using plastic teabags, if they are, then it might be time to make a switch.

You could also consider setting up a glass bottle milk delivery service to your office. It will cut the plastic, support local business and help you to develop your reputation as a trendy hipster firm!

Sort out your supply chain

When you buy supplies and other products for the business, does it come imprisoned in foam or smothered in bubble wrap? Challenge your suppliers to make changes and see if they can offer you any alternatives.

Consider what you are buying and how it is being delivered, but also ensure that you aren’t passing on a massive plastic burden to your own customers! Reduce the size of your packaging and use different materials where possible. Get creative!

Fix the freebies

You might be surprised at how wasteful some parts of your operations can be, so leave no stone unturned on your plastic quest. Get the marketing team involved to make sure there aren’t any pointless plastic giveaways on the agenda. Does that magazine really need to be sealed in a plastic sleeve? Will your guests even use that 10p single-use plastic pen with your logo on it?  There is an increasing number of merchandise companies offering sustainable alternatives to branded promotional products, so there are no excuses!

No one needs much convincing on the scale of this environmental problem at least. You’ll struggle to find a plastic-denier. Staff want to feel like their company has strong morals and environmental principles – and they’ll be proud to be a part of it. Make sure you get everyone involved, communicate the efforts you are making, and you can cure your workplace of the plastic plague once and for all!

Jodie Thwaites
Operations Officer,
Heart of the City.

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