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15th September 2017

Guest Blog: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Tom Tanner, SRA


Sustainable Restaurant Association (The SRA); Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Tom Tanner


Cups, bottles and straws. Just three huge waste streams in our sector. We’re drowning in a growing tide of packaging. Plastic was a fantastic invention but 80% of the packaging waste the foodservice industry sends to landfill could be recycled instead. And we’re getting through almost 10 billion cups and straws combined.


Our fast moving grab and go culture sees 7billion single use plastic bottles sold each year in the UK, of which only half are recycled and our caffeine addiction sees us consume 2.5 billion disposable cups of coffee. When it comes to straws, hundreds of millions of plastic ones are being used in drinks used every single day.


The tide is starting turning, however. Thanks to some really progressive moves by many in the industry, these waves of waste are just starting to recede.


Throughout September we’re asking everyone in the foodservice sector to be a #ProperTosser, Reducing the amount of plastic they serve and use, ensuring items are Reused as much as possible and Recycling when the first two actions are not an option.


To help everyone on their waste way, we’ve spoken to a range of businesses from Michelin starred restaurants to university caterers, independent restaurants to a cool group of London cafés. They all prove that Reducing Reusing and Recycling isn’t rocket science. Although there are of course some challenges along the way.


Like establishing just what is the most viable sustainable table water policy. The end goal is undoubtedly a service with no bottled water, but how do we get there, and what are the steps to take along the way to ensure that you have a policy on tap that is as good as it can be for you, your customers and the planet?


To answer these questions and more, we’ve worked with a raft of partners, including SWR who helped us with an easy to use Reduce Reuse Recycle toolkit. It’s got all the answers to those questions people are often too afraid to ask, like what’s the difference between compostable and biodegradable, are coffee cups recyclable and what the opportunities for cost savings?’.


As well as speaking to the waste experts we’ve dropped in on the shop floor to find out what the pioneers are doing to get drastic with plastic.


There can’t be many items that a business uses million of that it can stop using overnight and not really notice the difference. But that’s exactly what Oakman Inns did at its 18 sites earlier this year, when it acted in double quick to ditch plastic straws – except in drinks that really require them and for customers who can’t drink without them. Two more groups, Hawksmoor and The Breakfast Club are well on the way to waving goodbye to straws too. Finding the perfect sustainable alternative for those icy cocktails and thick milkshakes is still a challenge.


University caterers are among the leading pioneers of reusable cups. Being that most of them serve about 500,000 hot drinks a year, their price incentives for customers with reusable customers could have a major impact, especially when combined with new recycling initiatives like the one being introduced at Oxford Brookes this month.


And because bottled water, plastic or glass is an issue exercising people across the industry – and importantly their customers, we’ve checked in with those restaurants endeavouring to cut the umbilical cord of bottled water.


These pioneers are inspiring and encourage us to feel a little less like King Canute attempting to hold back the waves of waste. As well as being inspired by the achievements of those that have already made a difference, we’d urge every foodservice business to come and support the campaign And of course join the conversation on social @FoodMadeGood. It’s time to be a #ProperTosser and to tell people about it. What are you doing to Reduce Reuse Recycle?


The toolkit is available here