Making your business plastic-free
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Making your business plastic-free

When Michelle Grand-Milkovic and her husband Michael Milkovic opened their restaurant love.fish in Sydney’s Rozelle in 2010, they did everything they could “to lighten our footprint environmentally as much as possible”.

“We've been plastic-free since that time,” Grand-Milkovic says. “We are very pleased there is much more of a shift in the movement now, but we have been doing it for quite a number of years.”

Michelle Grand-Milkovic and Michael Milkovic opened love.fish in 2010.

Michelle Grand-Milkovic and Michael Milkovic opened love.fish in 2010.Credit:Tim Bauer

More and more businesses around the country are doing their bit for a greener future. Supermarket chain Woolworths, for instance, has done away with the single-use plastic bag, while Coles has pledged to reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and vegies, and will not provide single-use plastic bags at its stores.

While Queensland legislation bans single-use plastic bags from being provided in supermarkets and takeaway stores from the start of this month, Tasmania, South Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory have already banned them.

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Independent not-for-profit foundations such as Plastic Free July aim to raise awareness of the problems with single-use disposable plastic and challenge people to do something about it.

Grand-Milkovic says the biggest waste issue for the restaurant was takeaway. “It was finding a way to still have a takeaway business without using any plastics in any of our packaging, which at the time, was a real challenge,” she says.

“Now compostable packaging and recycled packaging and use of bioplastics is quite common. But at the time it was very difficult to find biodegradable packaging.”

She says it was also expensive to use. “Instead of packaging costing us maybe 5¢ per takeaway order, we were spending upwards of 40¢ per order to be able to pack it in a way that would be more friendly to the environment.”

The restaurant has moved to Barangaroo, closing its doors in Rozelle at the end of last year.

One of Grand-Milkovic’s pet peeves is the use of plastic straws. “We've never used plastic straws. There are absolute alternatives to using plastic straws. Same with plastic cutlery.”

Because they serve a lot of cocktails at the restaurant, she researched and found a straw that was marine-degradable.

Grand-Milkovic says the restaurant did not sell bottled water from the beginning. “The very first thing we did was we put in our water system, which again is pretty standard across restaurants now. But nine years ago, was quite forward-thinking.”

The restaurant recycled as much as it could and uses packaging that is biodegradable. It uses wooden cutlery made of birch wood.

“Our containers are made of sugarcane pulp and corn starch. They are quite resilient.

“We do have some bioplastics for the salads, which we use purely for cold products.” She says the bioplastics are plant-based and have been certified commercially compostable to Australian standards.

The company’s turnover for the year 2017-18 was more than $5 million.

Keeping the conversation going

Public relations agency WE Buchan has removed single-use plastics in its offices.

“We’ve identified and removed single-use plastic in the workplace,” says Gemma Hudson, managing director of the public relations and marketing communications agency.

“Everyone has their own reusable cup. We reviewed our weekly grocery shop to reduce food packaged in plastic – for example our fruit is now delivered in a cardboard box – and encouraged reusable water bottles and Tupperware.”

Hudson says the company has kept single-use plastic a hot topic of conversation in the office by challenging staff to identify how they can reduce plastic consumption.

The response from employees has been positive, she says. “Our employees have been engaged in the challenge by recycling any plastics that do make their way into the office (eg sorting soft plastics from harder plastics) and have made significant inroads to reduce their day-to-day plastic use by using eco-friendly cups and bringing their own takeaway containers for lunch.”

WE Buchan’s turnover last year was around $7.65 million.

‘25,000 less plastic wallets’

Belinda Lyone, general manager at Sydney-based office products company COS, says last year the company tested a packaging change on one of its products.

“One of our most popular products – COS stubby highlighters – were traditionally sold in a plastic wallet and we switched it to a box,” Lyone says. “This initiative resulted in an annual reduction of 25,000 plastic wallets.”

COS has more than 2500 eco-conscious products for companies who want to reduce their impact on the environment.

“An area of focus has been reducing the use of cardboard boxes,” Lyone says.

“We offer a reusable tub delivery service to our customers, where instead of delivering in cardboard cartons, we deliver in a reusable tub which we pick up the next time we make a delivery.”

Lyone says COS invests in reducing its carbon footprint. “We’ve invested $1 million to install 1500 solar panels and we now produce energy in excess of 80 per cent of our consumption.”

In May 2018, COS had an estimated annual revenue of $145 million.

‘Get staff involved’

Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, founder of Plastic Free July, says a good place for workplaces to start is in the kitchen or staff cafe as that is where a lot of disposable plastics tend to be used.

“Replace single-use items plastic items such as utensils and cups with reusable versions,” she says.

“Swap plastic bottled water with filtered water dispensers and stop providing unnecessary plastic such as individually wrapped mints. Every workplace is different so it’s good to start by looking in your bin and the plastics commonly used.”

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