Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Inspired by COP26 and ‘Mount Recyclemore’, a sculpture created to highlight the environmental threat of e-waste ahead of the G7 summit in June, I’ve been thinking about the 3 R’s of sustainability: reduce, reuse, recycle.

So here are some companies doing their bit in the food industry. Why the food industry, you might ask? Because I love food: it brings people together, and everyone has to eat. Plus, I wrote this at lunchtime. 

Reduce – using fewer resources in the first place

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Boston Tea Party, a local cafe chain, were the first cafe to ban single-use cups. If you want a takeaway coffee, you either have to bring your own reusable cup, buy one of theirs or get one on ‘loan’. When they brought in the ban in 2018, they risked £1,000,000 of takeaway hot drinks sales, but they’re still going strong and by August 2020 had stopped over 340,000 takeaway cups going to landfill.

Reuse – using things more than once in their original form

Photo by Bluewater Sweden on Unsplash

Of course, you wouldn’t want to reuse food that has already been eaten. But you can make use of food that would otherwise go to waste with the Too Good to Go app. You buy a Magic Bag from a participating cafe, restaurant or shop containing food left at the end of the day, so the contents of each bag is a surprise. I use it a lot and have enjoyed falafel, veg boxes and plenty of cake.

Recycle – converting waste materials into new products

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

According to WRAP’s Household Food and Drink Waste in the United Kingdom report, 24 million slices of bread are thrown away each day. But a few breweries have come up with a solution: brewing beer from surplus bread. Toast is one such company, and what’s more, they’re a Certified B Corporation, which shows they do business sustainably. Personally, I’m a big fan of their pale ale but have enjoyed all their beers I’ve tried.


Do you ever feel like a plastic bottle?

Yes, I know. That’s not how the line goes.

Just stay with me here.

Picture this. You’re a plastic bottle.

For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re a Coke bottle, as Coca-cola was the most commonly found brand of litter by Planet Patrol in their 2020 Litter Report.

The Coke has been drunk. You are now empty. Your life’s purpose has been achieved.

What happens to you next depends a lot on who bought you and where in the world you are.

You’re in luck! As a PET plastic bottle, you have a higher recycling rate than any other type of plastic. But globally, close to half of PET is not collected for recycling. So although you may be part of the 7% that is recycled bottle-to-bottle, it’s more likely that you’ll be tossed away, wash into a river and eventually make your way to the ocean. Once in the sea, you won’t be unique. Just one piece of the 8 million tons of plastic that end up there each year

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

So, where do you go from here?

The obvious path is to degrade into tiny microplastics and enter the food chain, ending up in fish and humans and sharing your chemical additives with them. But there are other, more righteous paths available to you, with companies working on innovative ways to extract microplastics from the oceans, ranging from magnets to nets to bottom feeders

But fingers crossed you’ll be rescued before you degrade. One day you’re bobbing about in the Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean, minding your own business. The next, you’ve been scooped up, turned into fibres, combined with organic cotton and made into a t-shirt or sweater. Each piece of clothing made by French startup Ankore uses 20 plastic bottles recovered from the sea, so don’t worry, you’ll be among friends. The company also embraces the circular economy. So once the sweater or t-shirt you’ve been made into wears out, you’ll be sent back and recycled, meaning you’ll live on almost indefinitely.

How about if you’re saved before you make it into a river in the first place? 

There you are, just lying on the floor.



Or so you thought. 

Today’s your lucky day! A user of the Planet Patrol app has spotted you. Now you’ll be recorded and recycled properly, helping you find the right direction in life again.

Or maybe you weren’t tossed away after all. 

In Kenya, companies have to pay to dispose of their plastic waste, which has led to a colossal plastic pollution problem. If you find yourself here, try not to contribute to it. Instead, go with Gjenge Makers. They take away plastic waste for free and mix it with sand to make building products. As a paving block, you will contribute positively to society for many years to come.

There’s no two ways about it. Plastic pollution is a major global problem. As a plastic bottle, you have to make the right life choices. Don’t end up as harmful microplastics. Instead, be the best version of yourself by getting involved with one of the many companies offering ingenious solutions to tackle plastic pollution.

Or maybe, just maybe, you were never a plastic bottle at all…