The race to zero

Environmental communications expert and Waste2Zero Awards judge John Twitchen analyses the key trends emerging from the second annual Waste2Zero awards held at the In & Out Club, London, on 4 October 2018.

A particularly strong theme at the Footprint-hosted second annual Waste2Zero awards was, well, less. Less waste, less plastic, less single use. Less unnecessary crap.

And less truly is more. There was plenty of evidence in this year’s award entries of businesses taking more responsibility, paying more attention to detail, delivering more transparency, and earning more profit as a result.

“But that’s the point” I hear you cry? Indeed it is, and it is heartwarming to see some big players in foodservice and some very large national and multinational companies investing to save money and resources. And ultimately our planet.

There’s something of a race to zero waste in our space, and it’s ace!

With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releasing its latest report together with its starkest message yet, now really is the time for organisations to step up, take responsibility and encourage each and every employee, customer, supplier and neighbour to do the same.

Sitting back and pretending it’s okay to carry on with business as usual needs to be called out.

The awards won by EY, KPMG and their respective partners were well earned. EY has eliminated single use coffee cups from its offices for employees, with compostable alternatives for the relatively small number of occasions when one might be needed, instead providing staff with a refillable cup and pricing incentive. They have reduced single use plastic items by 7.7 million and reduced waste by 57 tonnes per year.

KPMG has eliminated the annual wastage of three million single use plastic water cups from their UK offices, amongst other single use plastic initiatives, and in the process has engaged staff and suppliers, provided employees with refillable metal bottles and raised money for corporate charity partners.

So there you have it - just two examples of organisations letting their actions speak louder than their words. Literally millions of single use plastic items and hard to recycle products eliminated. Strong leadership demonstrated, many tonnes of waste avoided… and well deserved awards won.

One other notable award winner was James Cropper, makers of fine paper products, who are producing high quality paper and packaging from upcycled cups… “CupCycling” as their trademark proclaims! As one of the judges (me, as it happens) said:

“Hopefully [it’s a product line] that will run out of feedstock as the cup problem is conquered… but for now, a brilliant way of raising awareness and demonstrating how even products with the shortest life and lowest of the low values to society can be turned into something more useful and more valuable with a longer life.”

Their CupCycling facility has so far recycled 20 million cups, and has the capacity to “save 500 million cups from landfill each year” - so let’s help make sure they achieve this feat.

It is in the entire foodservice supply chain’s interests to address these issues, and volunteerism is surely preferable to mandates, laws and lots more rules.

And it makes business sense to address these issues and rapidly move away from the “convenience without a conscience” mentality that led us to where we are now.

It’s time for progressive, positive and responsible organisations to show clear blue water between themselves and those last few remaining dinosaurs with their heads firmly planted in the sand, in denial of the metaphorical asteroid hurtling towards the Earth, defending or even promoting single use products, seemingly at any cost to society, in the prehistoric belief that business should be able to do whatever it wants without taking its fair share of responsibility.

Vote with your feet - ditch single use wherever possible, reduce plastics, dodge EPS altogether - and by all means please, please use every opportunity you get to engage employees, customers, suppliers and neighbours to demonstrate your commitment.

The great news is that the public, in this post-Blue Planet II world, are right behind you in the race to zero.



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