A common question we're asked from businesses is “what about our back-of-house plastics - how do we reduce them?”
By implementing some simple changes, you will be surprised at how much plastic can actually be saved.
So... what plastics are we talking about, and how can these be successfully eliminated?
Cling wrap and single-use plastic storage containers
Cling-wrap serves a wonderful purpose, but with its useful life being short and its post-disposal life being forever, the more businesses that can move away from this plastic item, the better!
Single-use plastic storage containers, due to food residues, contaminate recycling streams and clog up landfill. These types of containers are also often full of toxic chemicals such as BPA’s that leach into the food upon storage.
Eliminate both cling wrap and plastic single-use storage containers by
Investing in durable, reusable, stackable, sealable, washable, heat resistant storage containers - the best ones include BPA free hard plastic varieties or stainless steel types.
The upfront investment will be high, however in the long run, costs will be saved through ceasing the supply of single-use and a reduced need for waste collection services.
What about “biodegradable” or “compostable” cling wrap?
There is a big difference between these two terms.
Always steer clear of cling wraps labeled only as ‘biodegradable’ (without being compostable) as they are most likely virgin plastic that has been given an additive to promote degradation.
This means it will simply break into problematic microplastics and never truly decompose.
Compostable cling wraps certified under Australian Composting Standard AS 5810 are a better alternative. Always look out for the Compost Standard logo to ensure that this product is what it says it is.
There are a number of brands emerging that have attained the Australian standard, such as The Great Wrap.
These materials are still single-use and contribute to waste and resource depletion - reusable items are always the preferred alternative.
The requirement to use gloves in back-of-house operations is another frequent point of conversation, as these too are single-use and disposed of in large numbers.
The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code does not require food handlers to use gloves while preparing food. This is positive for both the environment and business as gloves are just another waste item and cost that businesses and the planet can save on.
The NSW Food Authority suggests that frequent and thorough hand washing in conjunction with the utilisation of tools such as spoons and tongs in place of gloves, greatly reduces the risks of cross contamination.
The best idea is to have a small quantity of certified home compostable gloves on hand for situations that definitely require their use (like cutting up millions of chillies). These gloves from Biopak fit the criteria and are a good alternative when gloves are a necessity.
Like with cling wrap, beware of gloves claiming to be ‘biodegradable’ - always check that the gloves are certified under Australian home composting standard AS 5810.
The notorious Chux is used by the truckload in restaurants and cafes around the country. They are an essential part of hygiene and serve a very convenient purpose, but did you know that they’re basically plastic?
Invest in good quality, natural fibre, reusable and washable cloths. Look for material such as cotton or bamboo, with no plastic components that can deposit microplastics in your grey water stream.
Excessive food packaging
Excessive food packaging is difficult to successfully reduce. Due to the nature of the food system, food items often come from all over Australia and the world, resulting in layers of pallet wrap and plastic containment. Certain fresh fruits and vegetables are often delivered in boxes lined with plastic bags, making these waste items hard to avoid.
The best way to reduce over-packaged foods as well as your business's food miles is to support your local food economy.
Reach out to local farmers, suppliers and producers - many of them will deliver in reusable containers that can be returned, and if you do find yourself in a situation where there are no alternatives, remember that your voice carries a lot of power! Get in touch with manufacturers and demand change. If the market is driven by desires such as this, then businesses will be more likely to positively respond.
Buying items in bulk also reduces excessive packaging issues.