The last straw: how businesses should think about plastic

plastic bottles

It’s tough to be plastic these days – and rightfully so. It would seem the days of thoughtless consumerism around plastic is over, with a keen focus on changed attitudes as awareness grows.

That said, of the over 5 million tonnes of plastic waste produced in UK each year, only around a quarter of it is recycled. It’s well-known, but it bears repeating: our consumption of plastic is unsustainable. Within the business environment, the following are some key considerations around plastic recycling in the workplace.


  • Environmental concerns around plastics arise long before they end up in the ocean. The manufacture of plastics also has environmental consequences. Plastics are a chemical bond of oil and gas and this process is energy- and resource-intensive.
  • Plastic infamously takes a very long time to break down. In landfill, combined with other waste forms, toxic leachate from plastics are released into the ground, often ending up in our water systems. These are damaging to human health, wildlife, and eco-systems. Large volumes of plastic also end up in streams, rivers, and the ocean. This is extremely harmful to marine wildlife and eco-systems.
  • We need a healthy environment for our own health. The contamination of our water sources and the food we consume from the oceans has potentially dire health effects.


  • A target of 50% of the UK’s plastic to be recycled by 2020
  • Three quarters of the UK’s plastic to be recycled by 2035
  • In addition to single-use plastic regulations, the Government is proposing a number of regulations around plastic usage. One of the main areas affecting businesses is packaging. Government aims to tax plastic packaging which is made from less than 30% recycled material and impose a ban on plastic packaging where another material could be used in its place.


  • Be mindful of how you and your business consume plastics. Are alternatives available? If so, use them.
  • Re-use your plastics wherever possible. Be conscientious around packaging and try to innovate around ways to use your plastics elsewhere.
  • Make waste management a part of your business strategy. Recycling culture has myriad benefits for businesses – including potential cost savings and an enhanced reputation for responsible business.
  • Recycle responsibly. This means avoiding contamination wherever possible. Educate your employees on what goes into which bin, cleaning, and readying your bins for recycling.


  • What plastic can be recycled?Every plastic can be recycled. It’s just that some are more costly and complicated to recycle. Your plastic water bottle? This is one of the most commonly recycled forms of plastic. The least recycled plastic? Polystyrene.
  • What is dry mix recycling?Recycling creates new products and components from old products. Dry mix recycling takes uncontaminated plastic items (and other products like glass, aluminium cans, cardboard, and paper) and gives it new life, reducing its impact and the resources associated with creating new products.
  • Single-stream recycling.A time- and cost-effective recycling solution for many businesses, single-stream recycling removes the need for bin system and assumes the responsibility for cleaning and sorting waste on your business’s behalf.


For many businesses, waste management is a question of cost – and understandably so. It makes sound business sense to shop the market for the best rates on everyday business services. However, every business stands to benefit from the advice of waste specialists. This allows for waste management solutions tailored to every business’s unique set of requirements and circumstances. This is the aim of the team at Smarter Business. Click here to find out more about their waste management and other utility and business services.