Reduce and reuse:
How we went completely non-disposable
- Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
- According to the United Nations Environmental Program, between 22% and 43% of the plastic used worldwide is disposed of in landfills.
- Approximately 10–20 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year, killing precious marine flora and fauna.
Are you alarmed? We are.
The problem with disposables
While segregating, recycling, and disposing of waste in a sustainable manner is vital, what becomes even more important is to avoid, reduce, and reuse wherever possible, thereby slowing down waste generation.
In the case of disposables, the biggest environmental impact happens much before it reaches its users – during the making and transportation of something that will be used just one time before being thrown away. Our campuses are bustling centers of activity – with up to 18,000 people on our busiest campus on any given working day, we were using a staggering 70,089 paper cups alone every day.
Time to act
When we recognized that we were using up such large amounts of disposables across our campuses, we decided we had to do something. The first step was to phase out plastic and paper cups, plates, and cutlery, and replace them with reusable material such as stainless steel and ceramics. Yes, energy and water are needed to wash steel utensils, but the overall environmental impact is significantly lesser than that of single-use, throw-away items. According to a study, the use of stainless steel utensils reduces greenhouse gases by 77% and conserves tens of thousands of gallons of water over the lifecycle of the product.
No paper or plastic, it’s fantastic!
The use of stainless steel utensils reduces greenhouse gases by 77% and conserves tens of thousands of gallons of water over the lifecycle of the product.
And so, we invested in steel plates and cups that are easy to wash and reuse. Working with the various food court vendors, we replaced the disposable tableware with new stainless steel tableware and cutlery. Stainless steel is dishwasher safe and non-toxic, so it provided hygienic tableware and cutlery to our employees, without jeopardizing the environment. Stainless steel also has the highest reuse value among environment friendly materials, with breakage and wear and tear being minimum.
Starting 2014, we have reduced usage of paper cups and plates by 94% and 89% respectively across campuses. Switching from disposable to reusable tableware and cutlery helped us save nearly $15,000 annually.
We have also imposed an absolute ban on the use of plastic bags across our campuses – this too has helped in reducing non-biodegradable waste we generate.