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.' Empty product containers for daily essentials such as hand cream and toothpaste are collected, cleaned and refilled for reuse.
The supermarkets called it 'loop'. "The idea is to eliminate unnecessary waste before 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 launched 'Ditch the Disposable'. At UCL, around one million single-use cups are thrown away every year, says the university. Students and staff are encouraged to use washable, re-usable cups with the simple device of charging them 15p more for their coffee if they choose a disposable cup. This is not a discount scheme; the 'standard price for coffee is X, if you have not brought your own cup, the price is X+ 15p.
UCL also trialled a washable, re-usable Eco Container aimed at reducing use of disposable take-away containers. The 'Eco-Takeout' scheme at the School of Pharmacy and Institute of Child Health features a token bought for £3.95 which is swapped for a reusable take-away container. The token is returned when the container is returned and UCL’s caterers Sodexo wash the containers ready for their next use.
Sodexo is removing products containing polystyrene and single-use plastics bags from its supply chain. As of 1st February 2020, all foodservice items, including takeaway boxes and cups made from unrecyclable polystyrene, will no longer be available to purchase in Sodexo run outlets.
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. You shouldn't buy plastic wrapped single-use plastic cups but instead consider paper wrappings.
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.