• Kellie Lindsay

Six problem plastics cafes & restaurants can get rid of NOW (and how to do it).



Going plastic free for a business can seem like a daunting process. Many cafes we work with don't know where to start and don't have the time to research options. There is also a lot of greenwashing out there which makes choosing the right products difficult. Our role is make it easy for them, and with the right advice and an action plan it suddenly becomes very do-able.


We ask cafes to first focus on six items - water bottles, coffee cups/lids, straws, plastic bags, food ware (cutlery, cups, lids etc) and takeaway containers. These items represent the most problematic and prolific sources of the litter stream, yet they can all be easily replaced with better alternatives. Reducing their use will make a big difference to the amount of litter and plastic pollution entering our oceans.


When switching, always remember that reusable is better than disposable.



1. WATER BOTTLES

Plastic bottles form a large component of the litter stream. Many states in Australia are now introducing container depot schemes to reduce plastic bottle litter. However, reducing the number of bottles in the first place is always preferable to recycling.

Reusable Options

  • Provide table water in glasses and/or a water jug.

  • Install an on-tap water system & and offer filtered/ carbonated options for dine-in customers.

  • Join a water refill network (we recommend TAP, which is worldwide) and offer a free water refill station for people who BYO bottle. This may also encourage new customers to your business. You can charge for filtered/carbonated options if you have these, and you can sell reusable water bottles.



Disposable Options


Stock glass water bottles only. Be careful to source a brand that does not use a plastic lid or ring pull. You can find a guide on choosing plastic free water bottles HERE.



2. COFFEE CUPS/LIDS

Over 1 billion disposable coffee cups are used in Australia every year. The plastic inner lining means the majority of cups are not recycled, instead ending up in landfill. If mismanaged or littered they have the potential to end up in our oceans.

Reusable Options

  • Provide washable crockery for dine-in customers.

  • Offer a discount to dine-in customers as an incentive to stay.

  • Encourage customers to BYO reusable cups and consider offering a discount for this.

  • Sell reusable cups (these can be branded) and encourage customers to purchase them by offering their first drink for free. By doing this some cafes have banned disposable cups altogether and saved $$ on the cost of cups (don't believe us? Check this out).

  • Join a reusable 'swap n go' cup network. You simply stock the reusable cups provided by the network and swap them as customers bring them in for a new cup. These networks are usually free for cafes to participate, though some may charge either the cafe or the customer. In Perth, we recommend Rtrna or GO2CUP.

  • Provide a cup return service for regulars. This could be through a ‘mug library where regulars borrow and return a mug. Mugs can be donated by locals or sourced from op shops. Here is a case study of a cafe who did this (and is saving money on disposable cups).


Disposable Options


Cups


Look for 100% compostable cups with a PLA (bioplastic) lining. Choose cups from a brand that is certified to Australian standards (like BioPak). PLA is plant derived and compostable, so it is a better alternative to plastic.

Lids


Traditionally, coffee cup lids are made of polystyrene (PS), a plastic that is known to leach the toxic chemical styrene under certain conditions. To replace these, choose a compostable bagasse (sugarcane pulp) or PLA lid.


If you choose PLA lids, be aware that they look very much like PS lids - see examples below. To tell the difference, note the recycling symbols - PLA has a symbol '7' and PS a symbol '6'. PLA will usually also have the word 'compostable' on it. When ordering, ensure to check you are getting the right ones.



PLA lids will need to be commercially composted - if littered they take a long time to biodegrade. However a new alternative is bagasse (above, left), which is a byproduct of sugarcane- made from the pulp after the juice is extracted. These are home compostable, if littered they will break down naturally. We have had good reviews for these lids, and they are the option we recommend.



3. STRAWS

Plastic straws are used for an average of 20 minutes, however, they can last in the environment for years and are one of the top 10 items picked up in beach clean ups. Plastic straws suck!


Reusable Options


  • Replace with reusable steel or bamboo straws - they look much classier, and in the long run, they are a sustainable and cost effective option. Read about a cafe that did this. To clean, simply soak them and run them through the dishwasher.

  • Encourage customers to BYO reusable straws. Consider selling them at the counter. Straws can even be branded.


Takeaway Options


Switch to paper straws - there are many good brands that make quality straws that won't fall apart or go soggy in your drink. Another alternative are wheat straws, made from the stem of the wheat plant, a byproduct from farming. Wheat straws are naturally hard and gluten free.

Another option is to simply... not use straws at all! And yes some of our members have done this too, with success. If you choose this, ensure you communicate to customers so they understand why.



PLA (bioplastic) straws are another compostable option, but not preferred as they take a long time to biodegrade and require high heat, so are a problem if littered . Avoid oxo-degradable/ biodegradable straws, these are plastic and when they break apart, they contribute to the worldwide microplastic problem.



4. PLASTIC BAGS

Plastic bags are quite often the cause of wildlife entanglement and ingestion. Degradable and biodegradable bags are NOT an good alternative. Degradable bags break into small pieces quickly and are readily ingested by wildlife. Biodegradable bags take up to 2 years to biodegrade in the environment, and by that time they have often done the damage. Many states in Australia have introduced or are introducing a ban on single-use lightweight plastic bags. In WA, this includes degradable and biodegradable plastic bags.

Reusable Options

  • Don’t provide plastic bags, instead offer reusable cloth bags (these can be branded and sold). Try to source bags made from sustainable materials, or stock locally made Boomerang Bags (and support local employment and recycling at the same time).

  • Encourage customers to bring their own bags.

  • Offer a borrow / return cloth bag service for regulars who forget their bags.

Takeaway Options

  • Ask if customers really need a bag?

  • Provide recycled cardboard boxes for customers to use.

  • Provide paper bags (sustainably sourced).





5. TAKEAWAY CONTAINERS

Takeaway containers are littered frequently because they are usually used away from home. They are often made of polystyrene, which is toxic, and pose many health concerns for not only our wildlife, but us as well. We recommend that polystyrene is NEVER used for food packaging.


Reusable Options

  • Allow customers to BYO container and consider offering a discount to encourage them. Put up signage to let people know.

  • Provide or sell customers a reusable container and offer a discount on next purchase (upon return of container). Containers could be branded.

  • Offer a borrow/ return service.

  • Join a reusable 'swap n go' container network. These are fairly new and currently not available in Noosa (though we're working on it). An example of one of these is Returnr, currently only available in Melbourne but with plans to expand. They are free for cafes to participate and work on a deposit and refund system.


Disposable/ Takeaway Options

Some businesses assume that plastic containers are the only choice due to hot liquid or the need for containers to be freezable. In fact there are many suitable home compostable products available that are leak-proof, freezer-proof and microwavable, that will keep food hot, and that look great. Products made from Biocane (bagasse) are a good example of this, and are also sustainably produced. PLA products are also available, though note that PLA is not suitable for hot food. Be wary of products labelled only as biodegradable, ensure they are also labelled as compostable. For food that is not wet, cardboard is also an option. Try to source sustainably if possible.




6. FOODWARE (CUTLERY, CUPS, PLATES ETC.)

Foodware items are usually used away from home and in public areas, and tend to be littered frequently, often entering our waterways where they can cause serious harm to marine wildlife.

Reusable/ Dine In Options

Use washable reusable items such as stainless steel cutlery and ceramic plates. These items are cost-effective in the long run and reduce waste volume and costs to your business.

Disposable/ Takeaway Options

Choose 100% compostable items that meet home compost standard. For plates and bowls, choose items made sustained, preferably from byproducts - biocane (bagasse) is a good example of this. For cold cups, look for paper, either unlined (preferred) or lined with PLA. For cutlery, bamboo/ wood is the best option. There are PLA options available for all these items, but again they are not as readily compostable as natural products. Be wary of products labelled only as biodegradable, ensure they are also 100% compostable. Try to source sustainable products if possible.

WHERE DO I FIND THESE PRODUCTS?


Many local distributors now stock these products, so often it's a case of contacting yours and simply changing your products, using this as a guide. Be careful though, there are many products out there that pose as 'green', but are in fact anything but. If you are purchasing disposable products, ensure you are purchasing 100% compostable.

If you're in Perth, check out our resources for businesses page, where you can find local suppliers, plastic free catalogues and ordering details. And ff you're concerned about costs, we have you covered! Going plastic free doesn't have to hit your bottom line. Check out our blog on going plastic free and saving money.


Once you've eliminated these items, you're a Plastic Free Champion! We encourage you to then take it further, look at things like sauce packets, sugar sachets etc, as well as back-of-house and reducing waste.


Currently, membership is only open to businesses in the Bassendean area, so if this you, sign up HERE and we'll help you do all of this. If you're from another area of Perth, please sign up to our waitlist, available on the same page.


WA PLASTIC FREE IS AN INITIATIVE OF

UNDER THE 'PLASTIC FREE PLACES' PROGRAM

FUNDED BY

WITH PARTNERS

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