Single-use plastic and the reliability in catering we cannot ignore

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Beating plastic pollution is everyone’s responsibility no matter what each one of us does on a daily basis.  Single-use plastics do seem reliable and easy to use. However, they are easy to dispose of resulting in negative environmental and health effects even when we do not intend to cause any harm to other inhabitants of planet earth.

Catering, the food and beverage industry and related occupations survive on single-use plastics. It is rare to attend an event with no single-use cups, plates and cutlery with the addition of plastic bottles. Most catering companies prefer single-use plastic because of their convenience. With no valid or working recycling plant in Kenya, where once done catering, the recycling plant may collect the single plastic used items and transport to their respective plants, most items continue to fill up our landfills.

Single-use plastic cup

Plastic packaging makes up a majority of the litter that ends up on our beaches and waterways. This is a problem because fish, birds, and other aquatic wildlife are frequently harmed by ingesting plastic bags and other plastic debris from packaging. Animals have also been strangled by single-use items. A study from Plymouth University shows plastic pollution affects at least 700 marine species, while some estimates suggest that at least 100 million marine mammals are killed each year from plastic pollution. Waste in the ocean reduces penetration of sunlight thus hindering the growth of planktons which fish depend on for food. Waste in the ocean also causes navigation hazards for boats resulting in losses to the shipping, fishing, and tourism sectors. This springs back to a country’s economy. We all get affected by single-use plastic waste in the end.

Plastic packaging

A critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal entangled in Marine Debris (Plastic waste) © Pinterest

There are preferred options for handling food, whether in excess or at the table. These alternatives help in reducing the environmental impact of plastic waste even when we are enjoying the food.

As an individual or stakeholder in the food industry, tips and strategies to consider should always be in this particular order;

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Compost
  • Recycle

Using glass as an option

Refusing single-use plastics involves offering food in glass or metallic cups, plates, straws and cutlery. Glass bottles are also a great idea the food and beverage industry should consider. Using single-use plastic cups and plates because it will be easier to dispose of than wash is technically being lazy to a planet that offers plenty of environmental services like the food being served and clean water to drink.

Plastic packaging and containers account for a significant portion of solid waste from urban areas. There are many social and economic benefits of reducing the amount of wasted packaging and plating which include cost savings from having to purchase less plastic packaging materials and avoid disposal of packaging materials.

Compostable packaging/plating aids in reducing plastic waste. This can include paper cups and plates and food containers. Glass can be used and reused as many times as possible and can be easily recycled compared to single-use plastics. Glass is also biodegradable in the long term.

It is possible

To encourage consumers to be environmentally conscious, food and beverage companies could instruct a no single-use plastic ware policy in their premises. This could include using a thermos of creamer and jar of sugar at coffee stations instead of single-use packets. Replacing one-time-use packaging and service ware with reusable products reduces waste and environmental impacts while saving money. Disposables could be kept behind the counter to discourage taking more than needed. Reusable, compostable or recyclable ware include cardboard boxes, paper, glass, and metallic options. Consumers could also develop a habit of carrying their own packaging material with food industries giving out tokens whenever one adheres to such company policies.

Bamboo Coffee Cups © Bamboo Cup

Catering companies should offer food in glass or metallic ware instead of single-use plastics. Disposable plastic cups, plates, cutlery and straws are toxic to our planet. As a company, reusable concepts should be a policy to adhere to. Just because companies are serving citizens does not mean producing waste is okay.

As citizens, working with the local government to expand recycling and composting services and create policies that better serve the environment even when we are enjoying food will be a step forward in even achieving our sustainable development goals. Countries such as France and cities globally have gone ahead to ban single-use plastic items in restaurants and catering companies.

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to or

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