7 Ways Small Businesses can Eliminate Plastic Waste

If your business is a restaurant consider switching to paper or stainless steel straws! Photo by  Danielle MacInnes  on  Unsplash

If your business is a restaurant consider switching to paper or stainless steel straws! Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Guest Blog Post: Cloe Matheson

It’s more important than ever that businesses make the conscious effort to eliminate their plastic waste.  Large companies aren’t the only ones contributing to the world’s plastic problem – each small business can make a difference when it comes to plastic waste.

Cutting plastic usage from your business isn’t as challenging as many seem to think: you just have to rethink some usual ways of doing things.  Here are seven simple ways your business can eliminate its plastic waste:

Conduct a Waste Audit 

Conducting a waste audit is the first step to reducing plastic waste in your workspace.  A waste audit will give you a better understanding of the types and volume of plastic waste your office is producing.  This data will provide a clear focus for your reduction efforts and help you to determine the most effective course of action.

Photo by  Charles Koh  on  Unsplash

Photo by Charles Koh on Unsplash

Encourage the Use of Reusable Items

Your workspace shouldn’t need to use single-use plastic cups, bags, plates and cutlery.  If you haven’t already, encourage employees to use reusable items – think ceramic mugs, stainless steel water bottles and snack bags.  You could even put an official ban on single-use plastic in your office to ensure employees follow through with this.

Install a Water-Cooler

Single-use plastic bottles account for a vast amount of pollution worldwide.  To eliminate the use of plastic water bottles in your workplace, install a water cooler so that staff can refill their drinking glasses and reusable water-bottles with fresh water throughout the day. Want an even better solution? Consider putting a water filter on your kitchen tap if you have one.

Photo by  Mike Kenneally  on  Unsplash

Reduce Plastic in Office Coffee & Tea

Tea and coffee production create a lot of plastic waste, but you can take simple steps to minimize the waste generated in your workplace.  For example, most tea bags contain plastic.  Enjoy a plastic-free brew of loose-leaf tea, or support tea bag brands that avoid using plastic.  If you’re a coffee lover, find brands that offer coffee-beans in plastic-free packaging, or purchase in bulk. Don’t forget to compost the leftover leaves and coffee grinds!

Ask that Suppliers Use Less Plastic 

Suppliers often use a considerable amount of unnecessary packing when delivering goods to businesses. But you don’t have to let this be the norm in your company. If you are serious about becoming a plastic-free company, write a formal letter to your supplier expressing your concerns.  Find out if they can supply alternative products that eliminate plastic waste.  You could also ask if they can deliver goods with less wrapping and packing.  By speaking up about this, you may even cause a ripple effect of positive change amongst other suppliers and companies.

Encourage Staff to Bring Homemade Lunches

Large amounts of plastic waste often come from staff lunches, such as sandwich packaging and ready-made meals. Having proper food preparation and storage facilities in your office – such as high-quality, eco-friendly ovens, microwave ovens, and refrigerators – will enable staff to bring in food more often, and save them from going out and bringing back lunches wrapped in single-use packaging. Encourage staff to use these facilities as often as possible to reduce the waste generated in your workplace.

Implement Strict Recycling Rules

Even with the best efforts, your company may generate some plastic waste – which is why it’s so important to have strict recycling methods in place.  Ensure all your staff members understand the recycling rules in your office.  You could try sticking up some recycling posters as a simple reminder of the importance of recycling.

Cloe Matheson – Cloe is a freelance writer from Dunedin, New Zealand who is an advocate of a green, healthy lifestyle. She loves writing articles to inspire and motivate her readers, and has penned articles for local companies in New Zealand including the truck company, Fuso. You can check out more of her published work on Tumblr.

Guest Blog: Plastic Free July - Take the Challenge with TerraCycle

Written By: Basmah Ahmed, Business Development Manager, TerraCycle Canada.

Canada is lagging behind when it comes to strong federal policies on plastic reform. Though there have been initiatives launched by grass-roots organizations (as well as local towns, municipalities, and business owners), an extensive report by the three countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement suggests Canadian residences are generating more and more plastic waste. The country creates about 3.25 million tonnes of plastic waste (about 140,000 garbage trucks' worth) every year.

Aimed at encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the environment from plastic’s negative impacts, “Ending Plastic Pollution” was the theme of this World Oceans Day, as it was this year's World Environment Day, Earth Day and Earth Month. 

#PlasticFreeJuly aligns itself with global conversations on plastic, and TerraCycle has some tips to help you make better decisions in some of the places where plastic might still be clogging up your habits. 

1. At the store:

Start at the door and walk in with a reusable bag. Skip those pesky one-time use bags they offer in the aisles by collecting your fruits and veggies right into your cart as is, purchasing cloth bags, or making your own.  Pro tip: Always keep a spare bag in your purse, backpack or car so you are always prepared. This is a good rule for the mall, convenience store and other retail locations.

When looking at packaged food, there is often a familiar recycling symbol on a bottle, pouch, carton or tube. However, this triangle with arrows is not a “recycling number,” but a plastic resin identification number that only indicates what the material is made of, not if it's recyclable in your local program. 

Did you know that most black packaging, flexible plastic (like pouches and snack bags) and smaller plastic items (like cosmetics packaging), no matter what type of plastic, are not recyclable? This month, make an effort to check your local recycling site to learn what can be recycled in your area, and steer away from packaging that isn't on the list. In Toronto, where TerraCycle’s Canadian office is located, they've put together this super handy Waste Wizard. 

Buy in bulk whenever possible. Check out a local bulk store in your area, and bring your own jars or containers for your favourite snacks. Not only will you produce less waste, but you'll also have some pretty aesthetically pleasing food. (You know mason jars look great on the ‘gram!)

2. At a restaurant:

We all love eating out every once in a while, but with that sometimes comes Styrofoam, plastic utensils, tiny condiment pouches and more unrecyclable plastic packaging than is really necessary. The easiest way to avoid the mess is by first by trying to slow down and eat-in. Sourcing your ingredients from local farms, bakeries and other vendors reduces the packaging waste from prepared foods.

If you're truly on the run, be prepared by bringing your own container and cutlery. Asking your server to put your order in your own container can feel odd at first, but remember:  you're about to start an important dialogue with the restaurant on reducing waste. Some restaurants are already taking pledges to reduce plastic straws.  

3. Online: 

While cyberspace may seem an unlikely place to be “plastic-free,” one of the best ways to stay motivated and engaged in any movement is to have a community backing you up. Make a pledge, and hold yourself accountable on your favourite social media platforms by using the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly. Learn new tips from some of the best zero wasters in the game and follow accounts such as PAREdown or YourEcoFriend.

Is a product that you love or use often not recyclable? Reach out to companies! Even if it's just one tweet, e-mail or phone call, let them know you care and want them to do better. 

4. At home and at work: 


This task is no easy one! Going plastic free means you're going to be making changes to things you may have been doing for years and have never noticed until now. Plastic delivers the goods we shop for online, the clothing we buy in-store, the smoothies we sip after a workout. Be prepared to give yourself lots of room to make mistakes, slip-up and forget before you phase out that plastic for good. 

So what do you do in the meantime? In celebration of #PlasticFreeJuly, we've put our Plastic Packaging Zero Waste Box™ on a special 20% off sale all month so that you can rest easy knowing that no matter how far you're able to push yourself this year, plastic has a place, and it’s not in our waterways and landfills.

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste and Protect Your Lake

Today, we’re going to touch on five simple and easy ways that we can all contribute to the reduction of waste, prevention of litter and protection of our lakes. There seems to be this perception that living a more reusable lifestyle is difficult, when in reality, it’s very easy and straightforward! So without further ado:

1. Go Reusable


 Each year, millions upon millions of plastic bottles, straws, cups, utensils, grocery bags, and produce bags end up in our landfills…or worse, in our water supply. Plastic makes up more than half of what AGF picks up during our Love Your Lake project, whether it’s in the form of bottles, cups, straws, etc. Can you imagine the impact it would have if every person switched even one of these disposable items to a reusable one? Instead of using more than 200 plastic straws in a year, a person could use one reusable straw again and again. Instead of using flimsy plastic cutlery, a person could use metal or bamboo reusable utensils over and over! These are just a few examples of the way reusable items can easily be swapped out for their disposable counterparts.

2. Don’t Flush!

Now, we’re not saying don’t flush the toilet. You should absolutely flush the toilet as a common courtesy to the people around you, and even to yourself. However, what we can’t say loudly enough is DON’T FLUSH PLASTIC. Plastic?, you may ask yourself. Yes, plastic. 7% of the plastic that ends up on our beaches is coming directly from being flushed down our toilets. It is estimated that 1/3 of adults are flushing objects that should never end up in our sewage systems. So, that plastic tampon applicator and the little plastic wrapper it comes in? You got it: it doesn’t go down the toilet! Neither do Q-tips, wipes, syringes, condoms, or bags of drugs. Here's a great TED Talk to explain further.

3. Skip the Straw

Don’t feel like carrying a reusable straw with you at all times? Forgot your reusable straw at home? No problem. This one is simple. Just don’t get a straw with your beverage. Ask yourself if you really, truly need to use that pesky piece of plastic. Sip straight from the cup, or ask for a lid with a tab instead. Skip the straw. In just 25 litter cleanups our team has picked up 1,403 plastic straws off the shores of Lake Ontario. What's worse? There are millions more out there that are breaking down into microplastics right now.

4. Say No to Plastic

Money speaks volumes, and companies listen when their consumers use their spending to make a point. Avoid buying plastic whenever and wherever possible; instead, opt for metal, wood, bamboo, cotton and other natural materials. Need a new toothbrush? Think bamboo! How about straws? There are silicone and metal straws readily available! Even the polyester we find in our clothes is derived from plastic and releases microplastics each time it is washed! And let’s be real here…soft bamboo clothing sounds way nicer than scratchy polyester, don’t you think?
Are you up for a challenge? Visit Plastic Free July.

5. Pick Up As You Go

Ariel & Rochelle Picking up at Presqu'ile

Ariel & Rochelle Picking up at Presqu'ile

The last point is perhaps the easiest to execute. When you find yourself taking a stroll in the park or frolicking on the beach, take a minute out of your day and pick up a few pieces of litter. Can you imagine the staggering results if everyone did this? Make sure the litter pieces end up in the trash or recycling, instead of in our lakes! 

We hope that these five methods of protecting your local environment have been enlightening and have helped to reduce some of the stress you may feel about reducing waste! We are always available for questions or concerns, and there are many fantastic resources available online. Knowledge is power, friends.