The Plastic-Free Priority
Tackling the Need for Single-Use Plastics
Plastic waste is a huge problem: globally, we’ve produced approximately 8.3 billion tonnes of virgin plastic to date. If this continues, about 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. That’s why we’re focusing on reducing single-use plastics across our operations.
THE CASE AGAINST SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
A staggering 38.5 million plastic bottles are bought in the UK every day, but only just over half are recycled. Unfortunately, 16 million are sent to landfill, burnt or leak into the environment and oceans each day.
We’re committed to piloting new technologies and innovations to help remove the need for single-use plastics. Because we have a working population of around 120,000 people across 37 office buildings, and more than 300 shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, we know we can make a real difference across our Estate and throughout our operations.
In 2017, we asked people which environmental issues concerned them the most. Overwhelmingly, people identified single use plastics as the most urgent concern. That’s why we introduced our ‘Breaking the Plastic Habit’ programme, which empowers tenants, businesses and individuals to eliminate single-use plastics across our Estate.
On World Environment Day 2018, we hosted a cross-sector panel debate, sponsored by food company Cranswick with representatives from company Klöckner Pentaplast as well as Sky, Waitrose, Iceland, Surfers Against Sewage and other companies. The debate kicked off our 12-month ‘Breaking the Plastic Habit’ programme which seeks to engage with people to change habits and eliminate single-use plastics.
We’ve become the first urban commercial centre anywhere in the world to sign up to Surfers Against Sewage’s Plastic Free Community initiative.
HOW WE’VE BROKEN THE HABIT IN 2018
We’ve been focusing on project briefs that include sustainability from the get-go, including materials, health and wellbeing as well as sustainability in general. The new briefs will go live in 2019. We apply the same theory to construction and site performance – from responsible sourcing of materials to the KPIs we put in place. We also constantly measure and benchmark ourselves externally.
PLASTIC RECYCLED IN 2018
We launched our full programme of plastics initiatives with a breakfast briefing. 90 attendees learnt about our impact to date, what plastics-free status means, and what actions would take place going forward. The main message was that our efforts are targeted – not against all plastics, but unnecessary ones, and especially the single-use plastics that cause such environmental problems.
Both office and retail tenants have been incredibly enthusiastic in supporting our campaign. We’re building on this with a campaign that focuses on five areas:
1. A STEERING GROUP will take our campaign forward
2. GOVERNANCE will provide internal communication and embed initiatives
3. LOCAL BUSINESS SUPPORT will work closely with companies in our community, aiming to get 34 on board with similar commitments
4. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT will engage individuals and create plastic-free spaces for all
5. COMMUNITY EVENTS, with two major awareness-raising actions planned in the next year.
In April 2018, we launched the UK’s first on-site, publicly available plastic bottle deposit scheme as part of Breaking the Plastic Habit. Visitors to Canary Wharf can now recycle single-use plastic bottles and cans via an innovative deposit return scheme (DRS). The machines use a scanning recognition system to identify, segregate, collect and process waste drink containers, and users are rewarded with vouchers and discounts. The DRS is also fully ready for when the Government puts a national scheme in place.
Wharf Kitchen opened in 2018 as a plastic-free food destination with seven different street food operators. All seven have committed to ensure no use of single-use plastics: all food containers used there are compostable. Wharf Kitchen has proved what’s possible: we’re now looking at getting other operators on board to implement similar solutions.
How can we combat the rubbish and debris that ends up in the dock water around our estate? Seabin is an innovative filter that sits just underneath the surface of the water, with an electric pump that creates a current to draw in litter and junk from the surrounding area. It’s currently being trialled in the dock at Canary Wharf. It’s already doing a great job in collecting plastic debris and other litter that can be recycled or disposed of environmentally – rather than being left to pollute the river and our oceans. If the trial proves successful, we could soon be seeing lots more Seabins here and elsewhere.