With the Government recently announcing an end to the sale of plastic straws and drink stirrers, Emma Outten looks at what the food and drink industry in this region is doing to reduce plastic waste – as well as food waste
The tide is turning: single use plastic simply isn’t fantastic anymore. And the biggest indication of this sea change is the Government recently announcing that it’s to launch a consultation on banning products such as plastic straws and drink stirrers later this year.
As Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged at the time: ‘We’ve already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use, however it’s only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation.’
By last summer, global movement The Last Plastic Straw had already reached Norwich, with Gonzo’s Tea Room, The Plasterers Arms, North and Frank’s Bar all calling on customers to get on board.
Since then the number of bars and restaurants which have banned plastic straws has grown – latest examples include Revolution and Revolución de Cuba in Norwich, championing #TheFinalStraw and #NoStrawPorFavor, banning all plastic straw purchasing and helping to put an end to Revolution Bar Group’s annual 30 million order in the UK. Aldeburgh’s seafront Brudenell Hotel has joined the anti-plastic movement and given up using plastic straws and drink stirrers for its drinks – these have been replaced with paper straws and wooden stirrers (The White Lion, Brudenell’s sister hotel in Aldeburgh, has plans to follow suit in the near future). The Fur and Feather in Woodbastwick is plastic straw free, as is The Black Horse on Earlham Road, in Norwich.
The government announcement follows a pledge to introduce a deposit return scheme, for single use drinks containers, including bottles and cans, which brings us neatly to festivals, the new front in the war on plastic. Organisers of this year’s Latitude Festival will be tackling environmental issues by continuing to ban single use plastic items at the traders’ stalls, using reusable cups to minimise waste from single use cups, and running the bottle deposit return scheme again this year.
As for our retailers, The Green Grocers in Norwich has spent the past 10 years adhering to the ‘reduce, recycle reuse’ maxim, and introduced hoppers a year ago, with the aim of reducing single use plastic. Manager Jonathan Pace adds: ‘We now offer 95 per cent of our fruit and veg plastic free and we’re working with our suppliers to try make that 100 per cent. We’re promoting reusable coffee cups by offering 20p off a cup of coffee if you bring your own cup – a shocking statistics puts the number of coffee cups thrown away in the UK alone at 2.5 billion a year. We believe 2018 will be the year that reuse becomes the new norm and we’re delighted to be able to help play our small part in that.’ They’ve also signed up to be a filling station for free tap water initiative Refill Norwich.
Whereas, Waitrose Norwich removed takeaway coffee cups from its store at the end of April – myWaitrose customers are instead being asked to bring in their own reusable cup each time they visit and claim their free hot drink. And Strangers Coffee in Norwich has introduced fully biodegradable cups.
Meanwhile, the war on food waste continues apace. It is estimated that every year between 30–50 per cent of food produced globally for human consumption is wasted. In an attempt to significantly reduce food waste in its stores, at the end of last year the East of England Co-op became the first major retailer to start selling products beyond their ‘Best Before’ date. The biggest independent retailer in East Anglia now sells such products in its 125 food stores for a nominal 10p. The retailer anticipates the initiative has the potential to save at least two metric tonnes from being wasted every year.
At county level, householders have risen to the Plan Eat Save Norfolk Food Waste Challenge. In the UK each year households throw away 7.3 million tonnes of food and drink. This costs the average family with children about £700 or the equivalent of £60 per month. Since Norfolk County Council launched the Plan Eat Save food waste initiative (with Norfolk chef and YouTuber Ian Haste as official ambassador) back in 2016 a total of 832 households across Norfolk have taken part in the Challenge.
Then there are the Community Fridges. Back in November, the Norfolk Waste Partnership in conjunction with Wayland Partnership launched Norfolk’s first ever ‘Community Fridge’ in Watton. There are now seven community fridges across Norfolk and in the last three months alone over four tonnes of food have been diverted. Norfolk now has the largest network of Community Fridges outside of London. More information on the Community Fridge Network can be found at www.hubbub.org.uk/communityfridgenetwork.
Recently, another seven people completed their training to become Love Food Hate Waste champions with Norfolk County Council. They will join an existing group of 41 volunteers who help residents in the County to make the most of their food, reduce food waste and save money. If you would like help from one of the champions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, Norfolk County Council is aiming to make it easier for people to get composting this summer, with a new cut price bin offer and free courses across the county.
At city level, Norwich City Council runs a free weekly food waste collection scheme for residents. Residents can order a kitchen food caddy for free by visiting www.norwich.gov.uk/foodwaste. A couple of other Norfolk council’s also offer the service (visit www.recyclefornorfolk.com/bins-at-home/food-waste-collections/ for more information. The Council also offers schools in Norwich the opportunity to recycle their food waste.