Sustainability and plastic. A contradiction in terms, right? Well it's slightly more complicated.
Companies have scrambled for ways to reduce the amount of plastic in their supply chain in response to consumer calls for more responsible practice. This is much needed for our oceans, for the future of our planet generally, but what's the alternative for the food and beverage industry when so many of us take our food to go?
To be clear, this isn't a condoning of the daft idea to strip fruit of its natural outer skin to place it in plastic containers for 'convenience' (remember the pre-peeled orange segments?) It's about understanding what has happened before and what will happen after we have used packaging which we have made a necessity.
Take our client, Pure. They still use plastic when similar operators offer alternative forms of packaging. But more specifically, they use recycled, recyclable plastic - and they use it because it's preferable to virgin non-recyclable plastic alternatives currently available. The plastic Pure use can be cleaned and recycled. Other forms of packaging, which might appear more environmentally friendly, cannot be cleaned in this way and so may be too contaminated for recycling and be sent to a landfill instead.
Pure is looking into future practices, such as serving hot food to customers who bring in their own containers so as to do away with, or at least minimise, the issue of packaging. In the meantime however decisions need to be made about existing practice - and for the time being, this involves the use of plastic.
It's important to make the differentiation with so many jumping on the sustainability bandwagon and perhaps not fully understanding the implications. Pure are not the only operator taking steps but more needs to be done to educate and encourage legitimate attempts in the context of where we are now in our ability to both produce and recycle other materials.
With so many hurdles, and with consumers holding companies to a higher standard (no bad thing), it can seem an uphill struggle for many operators. However solutions, or attempts to reach a solution, are coming to the fore.
Pure, amongst a number of other independent and national food service businesses, are members of the SRA (Sustainable Restaurant Association). The SRA recently launched its Foodprint campaign to support operators who want to move towards a more plant based menu. The campaign will also offer tools to track ingredients through the food cycle so that dishes with a smaller climate footprint can be offered. This level of support and collective awareness is a great way forward and is symptomatic of what many are striving towards.
At the crux of it all, we want to do the right thing; make the right choices. The difficulty lies not in identifying the issue, but in finding the solution; in pinpointing what that right thing or choice is. What's important is that we do the best we can and try to make decisions which are honest and ethical.
If you're interested in reading more about Pure's efforts to make sustainable choices, check out their piece here: https://www.pure.co.uk/2019/plastic/https://www.pure.co.uk/2019/plastic/