Why pubs need to start thinking in terms of the circular economy

By Karen Lynch

- Last updated on GMT

Circular economy: Belu water’s Karen Lynch says people must rethink the concept of ‘waste’
Circular economy: Belu water’s Karen Lynch says people must rethink the concept of ‘waste’

Related tags Environment

Karen Lynch, CEO of ethical water brand Belu, explains why the ‘circular economy’ has to be central to the way the pub sector thinks about single-use items.

The pub sector has undoubtedly been living in an ‘anti-plastics’ environment over the past couple of years.

In 2020, we predict the tide will turn to include not just plastic, but all ‘single-use’ items. 

Brands that made knee-jerk business decisions to replace the plastics in their business with other ‘single-use’ items – like replacing plastic bottles of water with aluminium cans of water – will realise their actions may unintentionally create as much, and often even more, harm to the environment. 

Simple swaps can often have a higher carbon footprint; or be a harder-to-recycle alternative to plastic. We know it’s a tricky space to navigate and it goes against what many of us have been told. There’s a saturation of misinformation out there.

For us, the solution is clear. We all need to follow the same philosophy – the ‘circular economy’. What’s the ‘circular economy’ you ask? The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is the best place to get up to speed but, put simply, it’s about following two guiding principles:

  • Rethink the concept of ‘waste’ by using products and materials that can be reused continuously, which are safe for human health and the environment.
  • Wherever possible: reuse, repair, refurbish, re-manufacture and recycle to create a ‘closed-loop’ system, preventing the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.

The ‘circular economy’ has to be central to the way the pub sector thinks about single-use and the life cycle of materials if we are to provide real solutions for our planet; 2020 is the year we need to stop being led down a green-washing rabbit hole and instead use these principles to guide our actions.

But if, like many, you’re completely new to this, how do you know where to begin? Here’s three tips to get started.

Keep materials in use​. Adopt reusable formats wherever you can. Have you bought lids for containers rather than going for cling film? Or researched where you can incentivise your customers to bring their own containers for takeaway food and drinks? Pure is a great example of a food-to-go brand that has provided multiple incentives for its customers; from giving 50p off every coffee if you bring in your ‘keep cup’, to selling Belu refillable bottles (made from recycled plastic), with the offer of free unlimited Belu still or sparkling filtered water refills in-store.

Reduce waste wherever you can​. The Sustainable Restaurant Association’s principle of using less, but better-quality, meat is a great example. It’s the single biggest way our sector can reduce carbon emissions. Food waste has also seen fantastic innovation in recent years. Winnow, To Good to Go and Olio are all providing solutions to help cut back on waste while doing good at the same time.

Make sure your packaging choices are easily recyclable.​ Try to use materials that are made from recycled content, ideally 100%, so no fossil fuels are required to manufacture new raw materials. This will usually result in a big cut in carbon emissions. Many of you will be surprised, and disappointed, to learn neither glass nor cans are a better single-use alternative to recycled plastic. It’s why we recently launched our Belu plastic bottles made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and 100% recyclable (and as with all our profits, 100% given to the charity WaterAid).

Finally, share your journey and the lessons learned with others in the sector. After all, we share the same planet. Our improvements, however small, should help to benefit us all.

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