With public concern around single use plastics (SUPs) at an all-time high, the National Trust commissioned us to review the approaches being taken towards single-use packaging across a number of its properties, as well as the waste prevention initiatives being put in place.

Although the Trust has already made a number of changes, it wanted additional input, in the form of a considered and evidence-based approach, to help it optimise the packaging used in its food and beverage outlets.

Visits to three National Trust properties in different settings, combined with consultations with procurement, waste operations, and food and beverage staff, allowed us to produce a carbon footprint analysis of the different beverage packaging types being used. Alongside this, we produced a comparative analysis of the different packaging types for a wider range of environmental criteria, including littering. We also identified examples of good practice and potential areas for improvement across the three properties.

This research enabled us to deliver an easy to understand action plan to enable the National Trust’s Food and Beverage management team to bring in beneficial changes on both an individual property and Trust-wide level. Our recommendations include:

  • Offering free water or refill points in cafés/busy locations at every property;
  • Stopping the use of disposables, including compostable plastics, for eating-in;
  • Including a small charge for customers who use a disposable cup, as well as a discount for those who use reusable cups;
  • Replacing single-use sachets with bulk dispensers; and,
  • Replacing plastic-window takeaway bags with 100% paper bags to allow recycling.

Alice Johnson, who worked on the project, said:

“As organisations become more aware of the consequences of single-use plastics, they are increasingly looking for suitable packaging replacements. However, this is not as simple a process as it may seem. An evidence-based approach is needed to avoid kneejerk reactions which may result in greater environmental impacts.

“We understand how hard it is for large organisations to change their approach to packaging, especially over different locations, and we’re really pleased to have worked with the National Trust to support them in making informed decisions on their catering packaging. Now, they can be confident that their packaging choices are the most appropriate and carry a relatively low environmental impact.”

National Trust’s F&B Environmental Practice Manager, Chloe McIntosh, said:

As a conservation charity, the National Trust is committed to playing a leading role in finding and promoting solutions to improve the condition of our environment. This applies to how we manage our land, but it also relates to all of our business and visitor management activities which have an impact on the environment.

“Our environmental policy commits us to use all resources wisely, in the manner expected of an environmental charity, and to take every opportunity to minimise our use of non-renewable resources.

“This project has provided further insight into our use of disposable packaging within Food and Beverage.  It has highlighted some existing processes that we can implement across the properties and further improvements we can introduce to reduce the volume of disposables used. The key part of this project compared the life cycle of each type of our packaging from a sustainability and environmental impact perspective. This is so that future changes can be consider and help justify our packaging choice.”

Photo courtesy of muffinn, via Flickr, CC-BY-2.0.