Can you go 'Plastic Free' for a week?
Verco’s attempt and how coffee nearly broke us!
In light of World Environment Day and its particular focus on reducing single use plastic, we set ourselves the challenge to see how far we could go to cut out plastic completely. This is the account of Verco’s Wiltshire office.
Our Wiltshire office is located in the countryside, away from local shops, so we’ve always provided lunches – nothing gourmet – just salad, bread, cheese, and things that can go in the microwave (all vegetarian). For us, popping out to a ‘local’ shop is about a 20 minute round trip.
Every week we get a supermarket delivery to our door. When reflecting on our purchases, we realised, whilst we recycle as much as possible, there is still a lot of single use plastic. The team therefore sprang into action (with the help of a trusty whiteboard) and started coming up with solutions.
The solutions and the struggles
Normally in plastic bags, we sourced www.whogivesacrap.com - 100% recycled, no plastic (except a little bit of tape on the delivery box!) and a proportion of profits go to charity.
Fruit & Veg
We thought the best way to guarantee no plastic (i.e. cucumbers that aren’t wrapped) was to shop locally. Our closest was www.nestonfarmshop.co.uk and we ordered a box of lovely produce (most of it local). This required pick up during work hours.
Finding sliced bread not in plastic proved a challenge. We decimated an uncut bloomer with our inability to cut a straight non-doorstep slice of bread, and were soon suffering from a bread shortage! Leah and Curtis came to the rescue, adding www.joesbakery.co.uk to their car share route. Fresh out the oven at 7.30am the only issue was the bread sometimes being too warm to slice – a nice problem to have!
We thought we’d move away from plastic bottles and start using bars of soap, but finding ones which weren’t in plastic proved difficult. Our local pharmacies (of which we tried three) and supermarket didn’t have paper wrapped bars. In the end we opted for keeping the bottles, but looking at options for refilling.
We had a cheese free week as we just couldn’t find any that wasn’t in plastic; even deli counters couldn't help us.
As with the cheese, we failed to find biscuits not in plastic packaging. We had a far heathier week with an empty biscuit tin and everyone eating fruit! Saadia saved the day on Wednesday & Friday by bringing in homemade biscuits – she switched demerara sugar (which comes in plastic) for syrup and a little treacle and it worked a treat!
The beginning of the week we were still using up the old bag of coffee (we opted for not throwing away good food) – but when this ran out and people realised there was nothing to replace it with - panic set in! Our coffee is 'Rainforest Alliance' but it comes in a 'mixed products' bag. The decision was left with the team as to whether to give in, and as this is written, they are persevering!
This was an easy switch to glass bottles.
It’s been a challenge but a rewarding one. The team pulled together, with many plastic saving ideas, and the experience has further opened our eyes to the extent of the issue, and just how dependent we are on plastic as a society.
For a week, it’s been fun, but can we continue to be plastic free? The costs are higher, the sourcing more time consuming (in and out of work hours), increased fuel costs from more travel, packing slip ups when items are ordered online and delivered in plastic packaging need to be avoided, and there’s the unintended consequences of using more of other products (aluminium and glass). There were also a number of products we couldn’t source – we’re not sure a coffee free office will be a happy one.
That said there are initiatives that we will look to take forward:
- We’re looking to set up a milk delivery so glass bottles can be used
- We’ll continue to order toilet rolls through www.whogivesacrap.com
- Hand soap we’re going to switch to bars (once we've found a supplier)
- We’re looking at re-fill options for our washing up liquid, etc.
- Sourcing plastic free teabags
The above initiatives are a starting point, but there’s still a long way to go. If we could have a single weekly delivery of all our products, but they be plastic free, we’d be very happy. Whilst supermarkets are starting to change, our plastic use is so entrenched in everything we do, we predict it’ll be a long time before all our products are fully recyclable and plastic use is sustainable.