Keeping the focus on plastic usage in Contract Catering


Guest Blog:  Wesley Manson, industry expert, talks about the focus on plastic usage in contract catering at the moment.

There is a lot of focus on plastic usage at the moment. The issue has come under the spotlight recently due to media attention such as in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, in which the impact of plastic on sea life was starkly presented.

Of course, it’s not a new issue and we’ve seen action taken in the past – think the plastic bag levy seen in many countries including the UK. It’s important to keep this discussion going and ask what more we can do in our own industries and businesses.

Contract catering as an industry is in an interesting position when it comes to plastic usage. Contract caterers sit between suppliers, clients and customers with an insight into much of the supply chain which gets a product to customers. We have a unique perspective into what each party can do to ultimately reduce plastic use and consumption and an opportunity to drive discussion. Furthermore, as an industry we have an incredible purchasing power and thus an opportunity to influence standards and processes across the supply chain.

Caterers ourselves need to make a concerted effort to prioritise minimal plastic usage when working with suppliers. We have to ask ourselves how to balance this with commercial concerns and accept that, in the short term at least, there may be additional costs associated with use of alternative materials or processes to plastic. At the same time, we have to accept that plastic use can only be minimised, not eliminated, so we need to plan and implement appropriate waste management measures.

Much of what we can do as contract caterers is, of course, dependent on our clients so close co-operations between caterer and client is crucial. This is particularly important where there are commercial impacts resulting from plastic reduction. There is also a responsibility on clients to implement much of the infrastructure required – from waste disposal, to storage, to facilities for cleaning reusable items. We need to take the initiative to drive this conversation forward with clients and ensure they are fully engaged and on board.

And how do we engage customers at the same time? One of the big questions is whether we incentivise customers to use reusable plastics or penalise them for not doing so. Either way, customers will have to work to change usage habits, for example taking the time to wash a reusable cup, or making the effort to cross the office to pick up a cup from their desk instead of just using a disposable cup. Engagement on a site-by-site level, and training staff to promote reusable options to every customer, is key.

These are just a few thoughts, but there is obviously a much broader discussion to be had around this. If nothing else, the most important thing we can do now is indeed to keep talking about it. The scale of the problem is such that it isn’t going to be solved in the short term, but by continuing this discussion we can bring to light what our industry can do, and hopefully inspire new ideas and ways of working which bring about some positive impact.


Despite the plastic usage in contract catering we must also think about how the impact of using paper is affecting the environment we live and work through more sustainable ways of managing different processes inside the contract catering organisations.

Find out how digitising your contract catering operations can help you reduce the amount of paperwork you work with, save money and improve your teams efficiency.


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