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Making your business plastic-free

Businesses reach every corner of the globe, and have enormous potential to contribute leadership, innovation, and energy to solve one of the world’s biggest problems - plastic pollution in our oceans. Here at MCS, we are laying down this challenge to business - to you - because you are well placed to act.

We need to move away from a throwaway society to a circular economy in which all products are designed to be repaired, reused and remade, so removing waste and litter.

To help your business and your employees reduce their dependency on single-use plastic, we have put together some tips. By following these steps you can really help reduce the levels of plastic pollution in our seas and on our beaches.

What you can do as a business

Quick wins

In the office:

  1. Use recycled pencils/wooden highlighters/eco-paper packing tape/sustainable wood desk tidies and in-trays
  2. Remove all rubbish bins from desk areas and provide centralised recycling points
  3. If you have coffee machines, ensure reusable cups/mugs are used, rather than disposable, single-use plastic cups
    • Provide staff with their own branded reusable cup
    • You could also offer a reduction in the cost of coffee for people who bring in their own reusable mug or cup
    • Or add an additional charge to coffee for not bringing your own mug/reusable cup
  4. Provide drinking water/refill stations. If using water coolers, use glasses or mugs not disposable cups, and encourage employees to use a refillable water bottle for general use
  5. Provide reusable shopping bags for buying any supplies for the kitchen
  6. Try to arrange for milk delivery in returnable glass bottles
  7. Set up a composting system for uncooked food leftovers from the kitchen. Instead of tea bags, try to use loose tea or if composting tear open bags and put tea in compost bin
  8. When ordering products online, request zero plastic and polystyrene packaging
  9. Provide an easy to use washing up area and washable cutlery and plates for lunch

Provide educational information in the bathrooms

  1. Promote the 3 P’s only in toilets (pee, poo and paper), display posters on doors
  2. Ensure sanitary bins are in all cubicles, male and female, also for wet wipes
  3. Use refillable containers for hand wash and any cleaning products

Longer term wins

Company policies

  1. Carry out a simple waste audit to find out how much waste you are producing. This will help highlight areas for improvement and provide baseline information to measure change against.

  2. Encourage minimal packaging and maximize reuse or recycling potential of necessary packaging throughout the supply chain. Ensure you adopt this policy throughout your business from concessions to your online offering.

  3. Engage with key internal and external stakeholders on issues central to your business to ensure your plans are integrated, practical, yet ambitious. Bring your policies to life by finding innovative ways to engage your employees and report back to them on the impact of any changes. Ensure employees understand the importance of the waste hierarchy of refuse/reduce/reuse/recycle, are clearly signposted to recycling receptacles and are encouraged to innovate and suggest solutions. Educate your employees on the vital role they play in keeping our streets and seas litter free. Focus on key issues people can have a positive impact on such as recycling and appropriate disposal of sanitary items.

  4. Publish your environmental social responsibility statement online, including a section which details your approach to dealing with waste (e.g. having a zero waste to landfill policy), alongside annually updated KPI’s and targets (e.g. a policy to increase to 100% recycled and recyclable materials in marketing materials and displays by a set date).

Additional resources

Catering specific tips Events specific tips Tips for individuals

The MCS Clean Seas programme is a leader in reducing marine pollution. Over the last decade, we have advocated for change which has led to charges for single-use bags, removal of microbeads in personal care products, changes in labelling on commonly ‘mis-flushed’ items, and a deposit refund system for drinks containers being implemented for Scotland. Whilst we have achieved so much, we realise that solving global problems requires global efforts, partnerships built across sectors, different cultures and geographies. As such, we believe that business is the key to seeing action on a global scale and in a time frame fast enough to make a positive impact in our lifetime.

Actions you can take

  1. Download our 'Living without single-use Plastic' guide
  2. Join the Plastic Challenge
  3. Help stop the plastic tide
  4. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019

Did you know?…

Over time, one plastic bottle bobbing along in the ocean can break down in to hundreds of tiny plastic pieces

To date, our beach cleans have removed over 11 million pieces of litter

Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans