Sodexo axes unrecyclable polystyrene & single-use plastic bags

Sodexo is now removing products containing unrecyclable polystyrene and single-use plastic bags from its supply chain.

Environmental protection is one of the focus areas for Sodexo as part of its Better Tomorrow 2025 commitments, and over the past couple of years it has stepped up its efforts to minimise the impact of its operations on the environment. In May 2018, plastic stirrers and straws were the first items to be banned.

Since that time the collective efforts of its teams has already resulted in an 84% reduction in the use of polystyrene items, but from 1 February 2020 all foodservice items such as takeaway boxes and cups made from unrecyclable polystyrene will no longer be available to purchase.

Ana Svab, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Sodexo UK & Ireland, said, “We have already made positive steps towards reducing the amount of unrecyclable plastic products used in our business and we are thrilled with the efforts made by our teams to phase out their use of these products and the response received from our clients and customers.

“Removing plastic stirrers and straws back in 2018 resulted in a reduction of 1.8 million of each being used and thrown away. As with straws and stirrers, we are asking our teams to run down their existing stocks of these items to avoid creating any further unnecessary waste.”

Sodexo’s retail operations will also stop providing single use plastic bags and will offer customers paper or reusable bags to purchase as an alternative. Over the last few years for every carrier bag it sold, Sodexo donated to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to aid in the organisation’s efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution on beaches and in the ocean.

In addition to this, last autumn Sodexo included MCS beach clean days to its volunteering opportunities for its employees. Over 40 employees joined the MCS at four beaches across the UK collecting over 12kg of rubbish which included 3,808 small plastic pieces and 300 cotton sticks during the monitored cleans.

Waste has been an area of focus for Sodexo for a number of years and in October 2019 was awarded the best waste prevention project (non-food) at the annual waste2zero Awards.

In 2012, Sodexo launched its annual company-wide WasteLESS Week campaign to encourage its site teams to look at how much waste their site generates and what they could do to reduce this.

Each year one team is recognised for their campaign. In 2019 it was Sodexo’s Microsoft team who, working with their client, created a campaign across the client’s Europe, Middle East and Africa locations. In conjunction with the client, the team created a Sustainability Best Practice Guide structured as a calendar with each month focusing on numerous initiatives from both Sodexo and Microsoft. Each month is themed around either health and wellbeing, social responsibility, waste, water, energy or travel.

The team also devised a programme of activity to encourage people to be more aware of the impact of waste and single use plastics which included a reusable cup giveaway, a clothing swap shop, and displays illustrating reusable alternatives to common single use items.

A competition was held for each site to create an ocean-themed display using waste generated from that site to highlight the amount and type of waste and educating people on the impact it has on the environment.

Svab concluded, “Every year we are amazed and thrilled by the engagement from our teams for the WasteLESS Week campaign. Like the Microsoft team have done, many involve their clients in the activity, which helps to embed this positive action across the clients’ organisations, and we often see activity extending beyond the week-long campaign. Seeing initiatives born out of WasteLESS Week go on to become how we do business every day means we really are making a difference.

“As a responsible business we acknowledge that action is critical to ensure that we do as much as we can to improve the quality of life of future generations and reduce the impact our business operations have on the environment.”

Pictured: Meg Horsburgh (Head of D&I and CR, Sodexo UK & Ireland (left) with Sodexo's Microsoft team, the winners of WasteLESS Week 2019 (l-r) Petra Melander, Emma Siva and Anton Marra.