First sector-specific toolkit launched to help operators deal with disposable catering items

The first sector-specific guide to help foodservice businesses to find the best available alternatives to single-use plastics has been launched by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).

The easy-to-use manual is designed to provide restaurants and other hospitality businesses, large and small, with all the essential information to ask the right questions in order to make the best long-term decisions about the millions of disposable items they use, from straws to bottles, cups to clingfilm.

Andrew Stephen, chief executive of the SRA, said: “Plastics play a crucial role in the day to day operation of most food service businesses, and right now the sector is facing an unprecedented level of awareness and pressure over their environmental impact.

“There is a huge tide of willingness to tackle the pressing issue of single-use plastic. Many foodservice businesses have already taken the first step – acknowledging they have a plastic problem. A number have already acted decisively to ditch some items like straws. There are few in the industry though who feel fully confident about the available alternatives for their full range of disposables.”

Mr Stephen said the guide is  designed to help businesses better understand the realities of what they are using, what it’s made of and how they can actually dispose of it.

The guide focuses on six of the most widely used items: bottles, straws, coffee cups, takeaway packaging, cutlery and cling film, summarising all the different alternative material options, assessing their sustainability from production right through to disposal, providing operators with practical information about the items that will genuinely be recycled for example, rather than those that just have the potential to be so.

The SRA’s guide recommends a simple five-step plan as the essential starting point for any restaurant serious about reducing their reliance on single-use plastic:

  1. Complete a plastic audit – a thorough assessment of what you’re using
  2. Identify what’s essential
  3. Set reduction targets
  4. Ask suppliers for packaging specs
  5. Get your waste contractor to details what they can and can’t recycle

The UK’s fast-moving grab-and-go culture currently sees an estimated 7 billion plastic bottles and 2.5 billion disposable cups sold each year with only a small fraction of these being recycled. Estimates suggest the UK consumes around 8 billion plastic straws annually, too.

The guide is available in full to SRA members and an edited version can be downloaded here.

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