Readymoney Beach Shop has been open for nearly 9 months now and having not really known what to expect before we opened, we now have a good idea of what our customers want. One of the hottest topics around at present is the issue of single use plastic and I have spent the last couple of months looking at this in detail to see what we could and should be doing to help. For us, this covers a number of areas:-
Readymoney is relatively free of beach litter (compared to some beaches across Cornwall) but Fowey is lucky enough to have a dedicated team of beach cleaning volunteers whose work is very much appreciated. If you are on the beach (or indeed anywhere in Fowey!) and you do see litter, plastic or otherwise, please pick it up and bin it, every little helps! Over February half-term we are joining up with The Friends of the Fowey Estuary and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Your Shore Beach Rangers to host a Love Your Beach Day on February 14th, Valentine’s Day.
In January we switched from the normal PE (polyethylene, ie plastic) lined hot drinks cups to fully compostable cups lined with a plant product called PLA as this seemed like the right thing to do. However, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. As present, PE lined cups are fully recyclable, PE is an oil based plastic and can be recycled as obviously can the cardboard. PLA lined cups cannot go into plastic based recycling and have to be treated as food waste. Our trade waste is collected by the excellent H&A Recycling of Redruth who have excellent credentials when it comes to waste sorting for recycling. However H&A don’t collect food waste in this area, nobody does. Even if they did, commercial composting plants work to a 6 week composting regime after which any non-composted waste is filtered out and thrown away to landfill. It takes 12 weeks for a PLA lined cup or lid to compost... I then looked into community composting but even this was thwarted by the discovery that in certain quantities PLA can act as an environmental pollutant. Plus unfortunately, because a cup is billed as compostable, some people assumes this means that they can just chuck in a hedge, or worse, throw it in the sea. I don’t feel too bad about making this “mistake” as even the Eden Project went through the same process and have recently switched back to recyclable PE lined cups instead of PLA compostable ones.
We will be switching back to the PE lined cups once stocks of the PLA ones are used up but ultimately, the greatest effort needs to be made with attempts to reduce use of these in the first place. We looked at selling hot drinks in china mugs but this simply isn’t a feasible option given our location. Broken china + barefoot beachgoers = health & safety nightmare. We already offer a 20p discount for customers who bring their own cups (and hope that people will be doing this as they want to do the right thing, not just because they want to save 20p)! We sell our branded enamel mugs which are also available to hire (subject to a refundable deposit) and are awaiting delivery of a trial run of some bamboo travel style re-usable mugs with silicone lids.
We however accept that some customers are always going to choose the single-use cup so what can we do about that? Well, we’ll be investing in more customer waste bins to ensure that waste from products purchased from our shop goes to H&A for sorting and recycling. But what about the stories on the news about China changing the rules on which plastic they will accept for recycling? Clearly the key has to be either reducing the waste plastic in the first place or ensuring that it is used for other means and this is where “closed loop recycling” comes in. We are hoping to take part in an initiative later this year with Circular Cornwall to trial a new dedicated “beverage bin” where waste plastic will be recycled into new products, such as the rCup being launched by Perranporth based company . A Short Walk. Each rCup is made from 6 used cups so keeps cups out of the system as well as providing a sustainable alternative to using a disposable cup in the first place, win win! We will update more about this scheme as soon as we have details but it is hoped that it will be rolled out in May.
Single use plastic
In my spare time (ha ha!) I have recently taken on the role of Co-Chair of the Port of Fowey Chamber of Commerce. My Co-Chair and I have been discussing the Plastic Free Coastlines campaign headed up by Surfers Against Sewage and it would be wonderful for Fowey to go plastic free. At Readymoney we don’t use plastic carrier bags or plastic cutlery but like most convenience shops across the country, we do sell mineral water and soft drinks in single use plastic.
This is less straightforward for us to resolve but there are three steps we can take to address these issues. Firstly, we signed up to Final Straw Cornwall and will not be re-stocking any more juice cartons with plastic straws. We are replacing these with a product called Joosed Junior (you may have seen it on sale at Eden) which is fruit juice with mineral water. Yes, it is in plastic bottles but for the same reason we can’t sell coffee in china cups, we can’t sell drinks in glass bottles, it’s just too close to the beach.
Secondly, what we can do very easily is to replace plastic bottles of soft drinks such as Coca Cola etc with cans. Thirdly, we have signed up as a Refill station and will be filling up customer’s own bottles for free as well as in due course, stocking our own branded refillable water bottles. We are slightly nervous about how Refill will work in practice for us when we have customers queuing out the door for ice-cream in the summer but this is a new scheme and other businesses are likely to find themselves in the same situation. Hopefully customers will be considerate!
So for now, until the food and drink industry develops some of the truly innovative ideas out there for sustainable packaging, the steps we are taking to reduce the plastic we sell, combined with the trial of a closed loop recycling system is the best we can do but we are committed to keep looking at new ideas, keep learning and keep evolving how we run our business.
Coffee pods and teabags
Our existing coffee machine uses plastic coffee pods. These do go off to H&A for recycling but we could do better. The machine was only ever supposed to be temporary whilst we found our feet and worked out what our customers wanted and a new bean-to-cup espresso machine is on the agenda for the 2018 season. We are also looking into different teabag options as standard teabags use tiny amounts of plastic as part of the heat sealing process. Any replacement is likely to use a plant based product though and the composting implications need to be considered, just like the cups as mentioned above.
Attitudes are really beginning to change regarding single use plastic and sustainable living and this can only be a good thing. There is still a lot of work to be done on the part of the manufacturing and waste industry to action further changes but public awareness is high which is a good thing and more demand will help developments progress.
Thank you for reading this rather long note! If you have any specialist knowledge in any of these areas and can offer advice then please do send us a message, there has been a lot to take in and learn over recent months and I’m not pretending I’ve got all the answers right quite yet!
All the best
Owner, Readymoney Beach Shop