19 Mar Plastic is just not fantastic
The news is full of reports outlining the terrible damage being done to our oceans and bodies through the continued use of plastic for everything. Back in January I asked the market community on Twitter if they thought markets could lead the charge in phasing out ‘single use plastics’ and the results where quite encouraging.
Coming from a background in environmental science back in the day and bearing witness to the appalling devastation being wrought by plastics, it was great to see 84% of market organisers and traders seemingly committed to delivering real action to combat the exponential rise of micro plastics at a local level – but what I really wanted to know was how achievable this was to deliver on the ground.
We are seeing signs of progress. Markets are promoting plastic free days in the week, canny stall holders are encouraging customers to bring in jars and containers to refill items rather than bag them up and I personally believe market organisers are missing a trick if they don’t invest in ‘bags for life’ initiatives that do the double job of promoting their market, while earning stall holders a bit of money, thus incentivising the take up of a more plastic free shopping experience but there is much more we could achieve as an industry and I was keen to do a bit more research into what was holding us back.
Not long after the poll results where delivered, I met up with market organisers CASUS Events in Bristol who run weekly street food markets including Temple Quay and Finzels Reach Market in the City. Sophie Bowden who is a co-director of the company is working hard on an agenda to eliminate plastics from their markets but explained there are quite a few considerations around infrastructure and the way the public realm is managed, that prohibit an all out ban.
“Being an events organiser specialising in street food markets, the subject of food packaging, recycling and general waste is a major consideration when organising and running our events.
My business partner and I run up to 8 street food markets a month in central Bristol where the appetite for exciting and tasty street food continues to grow. Great news for us and for all those foodies out there but how does eating street food impact on the environment and what can be done about it?
Our market customers are becoming increasingly aware of the presence, role and implications of the food packaging that surrounds their food purchases.
As a business, it’s important that we are addressing environmental issues and whether it’s food packaging or food waste, lets be honest, our events generate a lot of waste that will end up in landfill. So how can we help our events to minimalise their impact on the environment?
Firstly, there’s the obvious one – implement a biodegradable policy and have all our traders use biodegradable packaging only. We’re pleased to be rolling this out in spring and are also phasing out the sale of single use water bottles and plastic bags. Going ‘plastic free’ is also high on our agenda plus encouraging our customers to bring their own reusable container to take their street food away in.
But how about the actual waste that’s generated? We always supply general waste bins at our markets but with recycling is a bit more tricky. In our experience, without monitoring, recycling bins often become contaminated and we have to sort through them at the end of the event. This is a time consuming and unpleasant job. Also, there’s the cost implications of buying the bins, storing them and paying a company to empty them. All costs that a business of our size cannot swallow and not a cost we can impose on our independent traders. However, in some cases, the company or organisation who owns the public realm that we are renting space from are able to provide a waste management service and at our market at Finzels Reach, we have market dedicated recycling bins at no extra cost to us or our traders which are provided by our client. But this is a rarity.
Financial assistance and support from our local government to help small businesses develop and execute schemes for recycling and waste management would be the ideal solution but the reality is that there is no capacity to regulate such a scheme let alone any spare money to put this kind of infrastructure into place.
For the moment, we as a small business will continue to implement our own environmentally friendly policies, raise awareness through on-line dialogue with our market customers and engage with green organisations within the city that can offer us useful advice.”
If you are delivering a programme aimed at reducing the use of plastic on your market or market business, please do get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about CASUS Events head over to www.casus-events.co.uk