Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses are struggling to make progress in reducing their use of single-use plastics, with half admitting they are failing to do everything they can.

A survey of more than 1,000 senior decision makers, commissioned by Keep Britain Tidy and BRITA UK, revealed that only 52 per cent have been doing all they can to reduce single-use plastic waste in the past year, despite the public pressure to do more.

Nearly 7 in 10 (69 per cent) agreed that preventing single-use plastic waste was important to their business, and nearly two thirds (63 per cent) believed the issue was even more important than tackling climate change. In addition, 70 per cent acknowledged that their staff wanted action.

However, only one in five have replaced some or all of the single-use plastics staff use with reusable or non-plastic alternatives, only 15 per cent have taken steps to reduce single-use plastic in their supply chains, and just 6 per cent have audited how they use single-use plastics.

Sarah Taylor, managing director of Brita UK, said: “It’s been exciting to see so many household name businesses take big steps to reduce their single-use plastic footprint. But it’s clear that smaller organisations have not been as confident at making changes.”

Recommended action

Keep Britain Tidy recommends nine simple steps for SMEs:

  • Audit single-use plastics in the business
  • Select new suppliers based on their environmental credentials with regard to single-use plastics
  • Replace some or all single-use plastics used in the supply chain
  • Replace some or all single-use plastics staff use with reusable alternatives
  • Encourage staff to use reusable alternatives
  • Install or increase availability of filtered drinking water taps or fountains
  • Replace some or all single-use plastics customers use
  • Run initiatives to encourage customers to reduce their use
  • Use incentives to encourage customers to reduce their use.

‘Businesses need time’

Speaking to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) about ‘Plastic Free July’, Rachel Yates, from campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), said: "Businesses need time to research solutions which work for them and their community. We're finding that businesses are tackling items one at a time and balancing savings in one area, with potential added costs in another.”

SAS offers a Plastic Free Business Toolkit which is already being used by nearly two thousands small businesses.

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