Sense and sustainability
Washable solutions reduce plastic waste
Supermarkets, giant hotel chains and airlines are exploring how to maximise the sustainable return from washable foodservice solutions.
Giant supermarkets are making huge changes. The UK's Tesco and French Carrefour trialled a new, global online shopping service based on washable, refillable containers instead of 'recyclable', in partnership with Loop. Empty product containers for daily essentials for a variety of brands are collected, cleaned and refilled for reuse.
"The idea is to eliminate unnecessary wastebefore it happens," said Carrefour general secretary Laurent Vallée.
But it is not just supermarkets leading the way – the catering market has its own innovators.
Airline KLM was the first airline in the world to trial the washing and recycling of different catering items within a closed-loop system.
Working with rotables specialist De Ster, KLM set out to prove it could re-cycle items on flights from outside Europe which would normally – according to European legislation – have to be disposed of.
Material for the products was specially adapted and KLM tested dessert and salad trays, lids, plastic glasses and hot meal trays so that they can now be hygienically washed and then recycled into new products – creating the loop.
Cutlery can be reused after it has been washed and checked.
Martine van Streun, Director Cabin Product & Service Engineering van KLM said,"The dessert and salad bowls, lids, and glasses are made of a material with a lower specific gravity than the original. It now can be washed in accordance with the law and properly recycled into new catering equipment."
Creating another 'loop' is London University UCL which has launched a 30 page REUSE 'how to' guide for students.
Included in this information on is "Ditch the Disposable". At UCL, around 1 million single-use cups are thrown away every year, says the university. Students and staff are encouraged to bring their own washable, re-usable cups with the simple advice of charging them 15p more for their coffee if they choose to use a disposable cup.
UCL's Refectory Shop
UCL's Refectory shop is being used as a test bed for plastic free alternative products. Students can pop down with their Tupperware to buy plastic-free snacks including pick and mix nuts and fruit. All drinks are also in non-plastic, sustainable containers.
Sodexo has strengthened its commitment to remove single-use plastic items from its operations by making available only wood, paper, cardboard or fibre-based take-away bags, straws, plates, cutlery and stirrers. Sodexo becomes the largest foodservice provider to implement such a commitment in Europe, going beyond the upcoming European Union Single-Use Plastic Directive taking effect 1st July 2021.
“We understand the role we play in the global efforts to reduce the use of plastics in our daily lives. We are embedding circular economy approaches in our offers to clients and our operations to ensure all waste streams have a beneficial use and nothing goes to waste.”
Simon Mussett, Head of waste management at Sodexo UK & Ireland
In 2020 Accor pledged to remove all single-use plastic items from guest-facing experiences by 2022. Testing is being undertaken to find an alternative to plastic water bottles, with glass bottles, jugs and dispensers considered.
The world's number one tourism business Tui Group which owns travel agencies, hotels, airlines, cruise ships and retail stores has launched a guide to plastic reduction for hotels. They recommend replacing single use cups with hard plastic glasses and glass cups or biodegradable cups made of paper or natural starches.
For conference rooms they advise to use water carafes, dispensers and glasses and glass bottles instead of plastic bottles. In guestrooms including bathrooms wrapped single-use plastic cups can be replaced by hard plastic cups (Polycarbonate or other) and by glass cups.
Again, washable solutions come to the fore. Tips within the guide, from Robinson Clubs on Maldives for example, include providing glass bottles instead of plastic to guests. The Clubs have cut the transport and disposal of around 800,000 plastic bottles annually by introducing a fresh drinking water system based on 7,500 new glass bottles which are cleaned locally.
Meiko is the world leader in warewashing. Washing glassware and crockery until it is sparkling clean and dry is what caterers worldwide trust us to do.
The challenge for the future is to meet the increasing demand to wash every size and shape of re-usable container. Interestingly, the expertise in washing 'rotables', re-usable cups and other washable but non-glass or ceramic items such as hard plastic plates, is not so much in the washing, as in the drying and handling.