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Posted on Feb 4, 2014 in Blog, General News, Waste


rubbish binLately, I have brought back my plastic salad serving dish to the café where I sometimes buy my lunch, the Olive Green on Baggott Street.  The proprietor has been thrilled that I am reusing this container and has rewarded me with a free baked item (scone one day and a Danish the other).  This is an unexpected treat but appreciated nonetheless.

It got me to thinking about the amount of waste created from our purchases of food that come in single-use containers…coffee cups and lids, plastic containers, paper and plastic bags, utensils, bottled water and other drinks.  I decided to do a back of the envelope calculation.  If you imagine that 80% of the workforce buys some sort of food item from a café or shop daily, this equates to 1.8 million single containers per day.  If you factor food items bought by 1.2 million secondary and third level students, add another 960,000 items, at least, per day.  You do the math.  The amount of single-use disposable containers runs to over 2 million containers per day, conservatively.  Some are recycled, but for the most part, these containers end up in the rubbish bin (or along our roads, countryside and lovely beaches).

What can be done?

I have put together a list of 8 ways people can reduce the amount of waste they create daily, without too much effort.

1)      Bring your own lunch and snacks/biscuits to work or school in a reusable container.  Saves a huge amount of money (bought lunch can cost from €3-8/daily).

2)      Make your tea/coffee at work or school in a reusable cup.

3)      If you want a barista style coffee, bring your own travel mug and ask the café/shop to use this instead of a disposable cup.  I have never been refused this request.

4)      Bring your own container to a café to be filled with salads, sandwiches or other hot meals or reuse the containers you received the last time you purchased food.

5)      Use your own water container or reuse the bottle of water you bought before. This will save money as well as reduce the amount of bottles thrown away.

6)      Don’t take the complimentary utensils, sugar or coffee stirrers.  If you buy your lunch, use reusable forks/knives/spoons  kept at work and buy a bag of stirrers by lessstuffmorehappy.ocm

7)      Don’t take paper serviettes that you won’t use.  I’ve seen people take a good eight of an inch of paper napkins on the off-chance that they spill their entire lunch.

8)      Refuse the paper or plastic bag you are offered to bring your lunch from the café to your office.  That bag will only have a life span of about 5 minutes.  Just carry your lunch or put it into reusable carry bags.

Your Challenge…

For the next week, try not to buy anything that requires a single-use container.  Use the above hints and techniques to reduce your out and about waste.  You never know, you may save a few bob along the way.

Also, talk to your lunch place and ask them if they might adopt a price reduction policy for people bringing in their own travel mugs and containers.  Remember, cafes save money as well by not providing containers and perhaps they will pass these savings on to their customers.

Who is on for taking this challenge and sharing their stories, good or bad?  We would love to hear from any café or restaurant out there that would like to promote this concept.

Coffee Stirrers photo by