cutlery and sauce

Choosing Environmental Impact over Business Budgets

Leading on from our recent blog on paper straws we’d like to discuss some of the other steps we are taking as a business to reduce the amount of plastic waste we generate.

Eco can be Expensive… but we will ‘pay’ either way

As I mentioned previously the biggest obstacle businesses face when considering more environmentally responsible packaging choices is the cost and I would like to follow with a few examples of the cost variations that exist between the plastics and some of it’s alternatives.

wooden cutleryWhen we first started out there were very few alternatives to takeaway cutlery other than plastic. They were available in a range of grades and costs but all were plastic and all were cheap. As a business when you are providing something to your customers with out charge the cost needs to be carefully considered. As the business matured and could afford to consider the alternatives, a staff lead ‘campaign’ caused us to investigate, then trial different options until we arrived at the wooden cutlery we have available today. We can purchase 1000 plastic forks for $15.00 or 1000 wooden forks for $51.50, over three times the cost. When you consider similar price gaps apply to the knives and spoons and you consider that we use approximately 2000 of each per week the numbers start to add up. The decision to get rid of the plastic cutlery costs the business just over $200 per week or around ten thousand dollars per year and we took that decision eight years ago. These numbers explain why many businesses feel they have to ignore the environmental impacts and just go for the cheapest option.

Plastic was endemic in our past… but now things have to change

The added cost of more eco-responsible decisions is in evidence across the entire range of packaging. We can purchase 5000 basic plastic carry bags for a half a cent each but we have elected to go with either a cardboard tray or a sturdy paper carry bag both of which cost us thirty five cents. In isolation this may not seem like a lot of money but considering it is seventy times more expensive than the plastic bags and we use thousands per year, like the cutlery it soon adds up.

Sometimes there’s a nice surprise

tomato sauceOne partial win we had was trying to find an alternative for the plastic sauce portions. After many trials our supplier was able to source a small dish made from sugar cane. It’s 100% biodegradable, food grade and we can purchase it for five cents per unit, add the sauce and we can serve the portion for approximately 15 cents which is the same cost as the plastic (squeezy) sauce portion. The reason it’s only a partial win is that these portions can only be used for customers dining in so we are still searching for sauce container we can seal for people wanting to takeaway without introducing more plastic to the equation.

Consumers need to be more aware of the eco-friendly implications for businesses

The only disappointing thing for us to see is the amount of waste incurred when people grab the self service items like cutlery without considering ‘do they really need them?’ and then we find them on tables or in the bins unused. All these things come at a cost and it is up to us as customers to support the businesses initiatives and respect the effort and the financial sacrifices that are often made to provide eco-responsible alternatives to plastic.