National Trust – a suggestion for reducing single-use items in their catering

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Single-use’ was the Collins Dictionary word of 2018 reflecting the concern over single-use items and the impact these are having on the environment. So today we wrote to the National Trust with a suggestion.

Whilst the National Trust have greatly reduced single-use plastic cups from their catering outlets they still use a wide variety of single-use items such as cardboard, ‘biodegradable’ cups and wooden cutlery. These items appear to be recyclable there are two key problems

*are the ‘biodegradable‘  items actually separated and sent to the speciast facilities needed for  recycled these items or do they enter the landfill waste stream? There are limited facilities still in the UK for recycling such items and on visits to various properties staff were not clear as to the destination of these items.

*wood, cardboard etc. are valuable and beautiful and their single-use is both a waste and a perpetuation of an attitude of exploitation of the wider natural world, including ourselves.


Our Suggestion

Whilst an obvious solution is to use washable dishes and cutlery we recognise there are some sites where this is not possible due to limited kitchen facilities, or as is the case for example at Chedworth Roman villa, limited water supplies.

We note that in many places the National Trust promote the use of travel cups. We have suggested that they  extend this to encourage the use of travel cutlery, plates etc. Since many people look at the Trust’s website before setting off the Trust could add into the description of catering facilities at the site the fact that disposable cups, plates, cutlery etc. are used in the cafe and thereby give people the notice and encouragement they need to bring their own.

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This doesn’t have to be expensive for individuals. Knifes forks etc. can be bought very inexpensively from many charity shops and transported easily in a toothbrush case. Enamel plates are readily available. Bringing your own items could be promoted as ethical response to the single-use crisis. A small discount could also perhaps be offered, funded from savings made. Historically people did travel with such equipment (think for example of the 18th and 19th century Grand Tour) and this could be part of the story the National Trust  shares.

We hope we get a positive response! We’ll let you know the outcome.

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