• Teja Hudson

Waste Hierarchy: Kitchen Plastic

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Every week for Plastic-Free July we're running a campaign to highlight ways to work through a particular type of workplace waste.

We've used the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid (right) to evaluate the chosen waste stream at every level and identify options for change that you might be able to implement in your business.

For Week 1 our focus was on KITCHEN PLASTICS, and this is what happened:


The first step in our Waste Hierarchy Pyramid is RETHINK so this is a chance to take stock of what's going on at the moment and consider how things might be done differently. Have a look at where plastic waste is being made in your kitchen; what are the processes that cause the most waste for you? This is the moment to go forth and investigate!


The second level of the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid is REFUSE...so what can you say no to? Are you buying things you don't actually need? What can you do without? What can you get package-free? And where can you choose alternative brands that do not contain plastic?


Wednesday means it's time to look at how we can REDUCE - for kitchen plastics the two main areas are going to be packaging of consumables (from soaps and cleaning products to teas, coffees and cakes) and disposable behaviours around lunches.

More than any other level on the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid, this one is about just trying to do the best you can - don't get paralysed by trying to be perfect! Every little bit of waste you prevent is a win, and will help improve efficiency and save money overall :)

Have you introduced any of these already?


Thursday means it's all about REUSE and REFILL! Replacing disposables with refillables/reusables is one of the strongest ways to change your relationship with plastic in the kitchen long term...use together with the buying in bulk tip from yesterday to really shift the needle towards a more sustainable kitchen!

Where can you introduce reusables? Where can you use something that has been used before instead of new?


Once we've exhausted all the possibilities of use and reuse in an item, it's time to return the resources to the system so they can be used again for something else. Friday means we're at the last (and smallest) stages of our Waste Hierarchy Pyramid - RECYCLE & ROT.

Recycling alone is not going to save the world, but combined with the other levels in the hierarchy, it's a vital step in reaching a circular economy that humanity can sustain long term. "Rot" is another way of saying "Compost", which is nature's way of recycling.

What are your biggest wins and difficulties at this stage?


This is just one example of how to work through a problem using the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid, and use each stage to question what you're doing now and how you might approach your consumption differently. The idea is to work through the levels in order but ultimately for all of them to be working together at the same time to prevent and minimise your waste.

But remember, you don't have to tackle everything at once! It's ok to take it in stages, to focus on your quick-wins first and then move towards deeper change in the medium-long term. Sustainability is a process, and starting imperfectly is much better than never starting at all! We also recognise that there are some solutions that might never work for your workplace at all, for reasons of security or hygiene or the speed of work. Ask yourself if you're just resisting inconvenience or if there is a genuine reason you can't address that waste stream that is built into your business model. If that's the case then it's ok to leave it until later to tackle, or to seek outside help or create a long term project to seek a bigger solution.

For today, do what you can :)

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