Sustainability

70 per cent of hospitality businesses aim to reduce single-use plastics, says new report

A new report by BRITA UK – a water filter producer – has found that 70 per cent of hospitality businesses are planning to reduce the use of single-use plastics.

The report, which surveyed 355 business in the hospitality industry, found that 81 per cent of businesses are aiming to reduce waste levels. The other most common sustainability targets include 65 per cent of businesses focusing on lowering energy consumption, and 64 per cent looking to work with more sustainable suppliers.

The report also found that 40 per cent of hospitality businesses see rising business rates, staff shortages, the fallout of Brexit, and potential additional costs as barriers to becoming more sustainable.

Is enough action being taken to reduce waste in the hospitality industry?

However, it does outline the economic incentives and benefits for brands that come when companies adopt green strategies, even such such simple steps as banning plastic straws – which pub chain JD Wetherspoon banned from the start of 2018 – saying that one third of consumers have reported that they are consciously choosing to buy from brands doing social or environmental good. It also finds that 50 per cent of hospitality business have put new sustainable initiatives in place in order to meet the growing consumer demand for responsible companies.

Commenting on the launch of the report, Sarah Taylor, Managing Director of BRITA UK, said: “It is positive to see how committed the hospitality sector is to adopting more sustainable practices. We understand the pressures in the industry and the challenges which can occur on the journey to becoming more sustainable. At BRITA, this is something we’re passionate about within our own business and have developed a dedicated ‘green team’ who promote our 100 per cent recyclable filter cartridges and oversee initiatives like a zero to landfill policy and reducing carbon emissions.

“Supporting hospitality businesses to implement simple, cost-effective measures in their sustainability drive is more essential than ever. Our aim is to work in partnership with the sector, particularly in the fight to reduce single-use plastic, to continue to tackle sustainability issues head on.”

Moving away from bottled water

According to the report, 75 per cent of businesses support the concept of a levy on single-use plastic items such as coffee cups and takeaway boxes, but would also like to see legislation go further than is currently suggested, despite a recent report from the Paper Cup Alliance saying that a levy could cost the UK economy £819 million.

The idea of a ‘latte levy’ has gained traction in recent months, with Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) recommending its introduction, only for the government to state that it would continue to rely on voluntary measures, rather than force retailers into putting a charge on disposable beverage cups.

The BRITA report goes on to state that, following widespread media coverage of the damage plastic waste is doing to the planet, 70 per cent of businesses are aiming to to reduce their usage of single-use plastics, and that 33 per cent are installing water systems and offering free refills to customers who have their own bottles as an alternative to selling bottled water.

Outside of the hospitality industry, there have already been significant moves forward in providing more publicly-available, free-to-use water points, currently led by the Refill movement, set up by Bristol campaign group City to Sea. Their projects are currently being installed in popular locations such as Bath, Banbury and London, where a trial scheme was launched in March. Additionally, just last month the Welsh Government announced that it will work with City to Sea to develop the Refill campaign in Wales, initially installing a network of water points in a number of communities along the 870-mile Wales Coast Path.

Is enough action being taken to reduce waste in the hospitality industry?

While the report shows that companies are making moves towards becoming more sustainable, especially in response to growing consumer awareness, the issue remains that hospitality waste is currently an often overlooked waste source. However, there have been initiatives in the industry that have made some progress.

After WRAP research found in 2011 that the hospitality sector produced nearly one million tonnes of food waste and 1.3 million tonnes of packaging waste, the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement was created. 95 signatories signed up to the commitment, which ran for a three-year period between 2012 and 2015.

The results were encouraging, but highlighted significant issues. Signatories reduced their food and packaging waste by 11 per cent, beating the target of five per cent over three years, while missing out on the target to recycle, compost or send to anaerobic digestion at least 70 per cent of food and packaging waste, hitting only 56 per cent. Steve Creed, Director of Business Programmes at WRAP, remained positive, however, highlighting that the results would be built upon in the next stage of the Courtald Commitment 2025, which is challenging food retailers, brands, food service companies, trade bodies and local authorities in the UK to reduce resource intensity by 20 per cent in 10 years.

There have also been efforts to bring the issue of food wade coming from the hospitality into the wider consciousness. Last year, a documentary titled ‘WASTED! The Story of Food Waste’ by late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain delved into the issue of how food is treated in the supply chain, and why so much is wasted, while earlier this year behaviour change specialist Hubbub launched a partnership with Compass Group UK & Ireland and kitchen food waste app Winnow to reduce the amount of food thrown away in restaurants. That partnership is exploring different behaviour change approaches, focusing on a variety of positive behaviour change interventions.

The report – ‘The Planet Around You: How hospitality businesses are addressing the sustainability challenge’ – can be viewed in full online.

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