5 Brilliant Ways To reduce your office intake of PLASTIC!

October Eco-Tip ….


OK, so for those of you who know me (Siobhan) personally, it will be no surprise that I’m a not-so-secret tree-hugger and I detest plastic. My background of growing up in Africa has left a profound impression on me and the way I think and feel about animals, our day-to-day environment and on a much larger scale – our wonderful one and only planet.


While I’ve always been a conscientious recycler at home and in the office, patiently separating rubbish and the various waste items etc – I have to admit as I forge through running 2 companies, this is not always something at the forefront of my mind.


Something that made a simply massive impact on me is Sir David Attenborough’s recent BBC Blue Planet TV series , highlighting the rather shocking evidence of what plastic is doing to our oceans.


Six months later and as per the BBC “62% of surveyed UK audiences say they wanted to make changes in their daily lives to reduce pollution of our oceans” – which is a pretty good start. (Catch-up with the man himself in this quick 2 minute video below, courtesy of the BBC)



It got me thinking….and I mean really thinking about how I live my life on a day-to-day basis, the way in which we work in the office, the food that we buy and how it’s wrapped. The reality is that in every single room of my home and my office – there is something made of, or wrapped in, plastic.


Examples of plastic items in MY Design Office:

  • muji boxes (lots) holding fabric samples, wood samples, tile samples
  • ink cartridges
  • computer casings
  • Oyster cards and their cases
  • the telephones
  • (lots and lots) of measuring tapes
  • the electric pencil sharpener (my secret office geek pleasure)
  • the label maker (yes, yes, I’m OCD and I’ve come to terms with it Face With Tears of Joy on Apple iOS 11.3 )
  • (lots and lots) of pens of all shapes and colours
  • bubble wrap
  • padded envelopes
  • presentation portfolios
  • magazine files
  • magazine boxes


…and the list could go on….eeek!


So here we are going to start a Monthly collaborative Blog post, where the aim is to help us all, as Interior Designers, become more aware of the materials we have around us every day, and how we choose to use them.


Let’s Get Rid of PLASTIC Once and For All!


Well, I’m going to be honest – until technology moves along quite a bit – we are going to be stuck with items like computers and phones etc.  But here are 5 Brilliant Ways To reduce your office intake of PLASTIC!



1. Magazines

If you can, STOP subscribing to paper Interior Design magazines and switch to digital subscriptions. The magazines always arrive in plastic bags….yes?

Well, how many of you know that those plastic magazine bags are actually recyclable? In fact, any plastic that is stretchy, can be recycled at your local supermarket. Did you know that well-renowned international magazine National Geographic as of June 2018, has launched a multi-year initiative called Planet or Plastic – where if you are a UK, US or  India subscriber – the magazines now arrive …..sans plastic!


My kiwi hubby, ever keen to highlight his homeland, was proud to advise me that New Zealand has become the latest country to ban single-use plastic bags in an effort to tackle plastic pollution. On Friday 12 October 2018, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans to phase out single-use plastic bags – how amazing is that?!


Surprising Fact:

On the continent of Africa, where plastic pollution is very prevalent – there are 2 countries which have completely banned plastic….. while efforts began back in 2006, it was more recently on 1 July 2016 when Morocco banned plastic. Shops, street sellers and retailers across the country have made the move to over to reusable bags. I can verify from my recent trip to Marrakech, while plastic pollution was not entirely eliminated, (they still don’t know what to do with plastic bottles) – I have to say that the general street plastic pollution was very low….. I’ve seen far worse on the hard shoulders of the roads in Surrey!

…. and….

Rwanda has been leading the charge by banning plastic as far back as 2008. Luggage is even searched at the border, and any and all forms of plastic bags are confiscated before entering the country!



2. Ink Cartridges

If you can, think about how much do you really need that printer of yours. Yes, I know it would be hard to part with – I feel the same. In fact, 24 million homes in the UK have a personal computer and 90% of those homes have printers. OK, so one way to offset this is to ensure that you recycle your ink cartridges.


Ink cartridges contain harmful chemicals and plastics, some of which can take up to 1000 years to decompose. And….. out of the 65 million cartridges (!!!) that are produced in the UK every year, only 15% are actually reused or recycled. The rest go to landfill site, which has a big impact on our environment. These are scary figures…right?!?

Click above for more info on WHY you should recycle your ink cartridges. (Image courtesy of www.planetgreenrecycle.com)

How can I recycle my ink cartridges you ask? 

There are a number of companies online who will collect these for you. Some of these are charities who will even collect the cartridges from you. The simplest thing to do is put your empty cartridges into a box and once the box is full, google ” recycle my ink cartridges” , see what comes up and make your choice.

How easy is that?



3. Polystyrene Packaging

Lighting suppliers, lamps and lampshades. How many lamps have you taken receipt of over the years, where the base or the shade is smothered in polystyrene balls? Those bubbles have then more-often-than-not gone into the rubbish. Well, …. depending on where you are based – polystyrene can now be accepted for recycling.

This is super easy to look up on the Recycle Now website where you choose what you want to try recycle and then choose your location…..and voila – the addresses will pop up showing you where to go.

Where is all the polystyrene going?

4. Water Bottles

If you are like me and your typical day is divided between being in the office and out and about in meetings, sometimes travelling via car or via train – I find it imperative to have water with me at all times. Historically, I’ve made sure to re-use my water bottles for as long as possible until they really are no longer functional.

However, my really simple tip here is – Invest in a refillable water bottle. Some come with filters if you’re worried about water quality.

Invest in a reusable Water Bottle (image courtesy of www.productdirectory.com.my)


5. Sort your office waste!

This is a bit of a no-brainer – however, you would be surprised how many Interior Designers think about this….and then get distracted with clients, suppliers, emails, life etc. The easiest way to tackle this is to buy 3 bins, ideally each a different colour. They don’t need to be fancy – just easily identifiable as being:

  • paper
  • plastic
  • non-recyclable

Ursula Wesselingh from Room to Bloom advises that she sorts her waste daily into recyclables and non-recyclables. She also makes a point of re-using all incoming packaging (boxes and padded envelopes etc.).



6. BONUS TIP!    Engage with your suppliers about plastic and how it’s disposed of.

Well I said 5 Tips – but here is a 6th tip. This might be a toughy ….but it’s important!

Start asking your contractors how they plan to deal with plastic rubbish on site? Request that they submit a Recycling & Waste Disposal Method Statement as part of their Tender Response. Yes, its going to take some time to get the builders thinking about this and changing their ways. However, we, as Interior Designers have a responsibility to prod them into starting.


If this blog post has resonated with you….there are a 3 extra steps you can take:


1. Read National Geographic’s Article and help turn the tide against plastic.


2. Pick an Action to make a difference. Reduce your plastic footprint by:

  • choosing a reusable water bottle
  • choosing to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. Use either a “bag for life” or if you have them tucked away in a cupboard – good old blue IKEA bags are fantastic for a grocery run.
  • invest in a reusable coffee cup
  • say “No thanks” to plastic straws
  • say “No thanks” to plastic cutlery and take your own
  • if collecting a takeaway for lunch or dinner – hand over your own container and ask for it to be placed in that.


3. Share the message with friends, family, other designers, via social media, strangers on the train…you get the idea… – our planet is drowning under the weight of plastic.


Small steps by many can start to help make a big difference….


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