In the United Kingdom, an estimated 4.9 million metric tonnes of plastics are placed on the market, and three-quarters of this becomes waste. If you work in an office, you won't be surprised to know that offices contribute to this huge number: 70% of office waste is recyclable, but on average just 7.5% is recycled. Furthermore, the average office worker in the UK uses up to 45 pieces of paper per day, and a staggering two-thirds of that is considered waste. This contributes to the 80.6m tonnes of paper that enters waste each year, and makes up 24% of the UK's total waste.
You also won't be surprised to know that the single-use food and drink that people bring into the office contributes to this waste, as well as the office supplies that are made from—and come in— non-recyclable plastic.
There is no simple method to eliminate all of this plastic waste in the office, but there are steps you can take to reduce it — all it takes is some smart swaps. To get started, take common office items and perishables, and replace them with plastic-free alternatives that are kinder to the planet. We've compiled a list of the best plastic-free office alternatives to help you get on the path towards a more sustainable office.
Pens are an office staple but the barrel is often made from non-recyclable and toxic plastic that does not biodegrade over time. To combat this, switch out one-use ballpoint pens for refillable grass pens and some eco ink refills for your office. These pens still do the job, but are made from 80% grass and 20% recycled BPA-free plastic in a factory powered by biogas and waste heat, keeping waste to an absolute minimum.
With brand new eco pens, you're going to need something to write on! Replace non-recyclable paper and notebooks with sustainable accessories made from recycled materials and 100% sustainable paper instead. Vent stocks a range of sustainable notebooks, journals, list-pads and sketchbooks that give you the same high-quality product and pages (80gsm paper) without the environmental cost.
Plastic-Free Tea and Coffee
Offices are fuelled by tea and coffee, but not all of it is good for the environment. Although lots of companies are actively developing plant-based and biodegradable alternatives, at present, tea bags contain up to 25% non-biodegradable polypropylene. Some premium tea bags might even be leaving billions of microscopic plastic particles in your cup. To combat this for the better of the planet, switch to loose leaf tea that is plastic-free and comes in compostable bags. If you opt for loose leaf tea without the bags, you can provide a tea strainer or reusable tea bags for your employees to use.
Reusable Mugs, Cups and Bottles
If you don't at the moment, you can also provide your employees with communal mugs and cups that can be used for tea, coffee, water and other beverages. For those that prefer bottled water for its "filtered" contents, plastic-free charcoal water filters are a great tool to filter tap water ahead of time.
You might even want to set up a scheme to encourage employees to ditch single-use plastic polyethylene and opt for reusable water bottles and coffee containers instead. For example, a discount on coffee in your café if you have a reusable coffee cup, or a free reusable water bottle for employees who pledge to ditch plastic water bottles, could be a great incentive to help create a more sustainable office space.
If you provide your employees with treats or have a staff café, switch out to sustainably-sourced and plastic-free food and drink. You'll get the same tasty treats, with much less (or no) waste. At Authentic House, we love Raw Halo Chocolate, Prodigy Bars and Sweet Lounge fizzies for a sweet, delicious treat.
Kitchen and Cleaning Supplies
If you have a communal kitchen or other shared spaces in your office, switch out common kitchen and cleaning supplies for plastic-free alternatives. For example, you can change your green and yellow dish sponge, which is made from synthetic fibres that pollute waterways and aren’t biodegradable, and replace it with a biodegradable sponge made from plant cellulose, and a coconut scrub pad or eco washing up brush instead.
You can also switch out your washing-up liquid that comes in a plastic bottle with a plastic-free dish soap or washing-up soap bar instead - the ultimate zero-waste product for keeping your space clean.
For general space maintenance, plastic-free kettle cleaning tablets, natural drain cleaner and cleaning paste or cleaning bars will also keep your office clean and fresh without a negative impact on the planet.
Last but not least, you could try and go paperless. Although this might sound difficult, it can start as small as a switch to note-taking software or task and project management apps (like Trello) instead of physical pen, paper and post-its. If you like to network, you might even want to switch physical business cards for digital ones instead.
You could also make a larger, long-term investment in notebook alternatives for your employees. I use Remarkable: a paperless tablet that mimics the look and feel of a paper notebook and pen without the waste. All of your notes and files can be saved, categorised and shared to a computer - there is even a feature to convert your written notes to text.
We are Authentic House, an online plastic free shop based in Wales, helping you create a more eco-friendly home. We support small, ethical businesses like us wherever we can, and we work closely with makers to create our own products. All the products you'll find in our shop or boxes are plastic free or minimal. We source recycled and easily recyclable packaging for our products, and plant a tree for every order. Find out more here.