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Eliminating Disposables at Work

Eva Lewandowski

At most workplaces it is fairly common for employees to enjoy a meal or snack together. Whether it is cake at a birthday celebration, a cheese and cracker tray at a team meeting, or a full potluck at an employee picnic, there is usually quite a bit of eating going on at work.

More often than not, employees are using displosable plates, cups, and utensils with these treats. Peek into the lunchroom or breakroom at the average workplace, and you’ll find a stash of paper plates, Styrofoam cups, and plastic forks. Even workers who use reusable dishes when they pack their lunch will often use these work-provided conveniences.

It can be difficult to convince your entire workplace to ditch the disposables. Some coworkers don’t want to wash dishes at work; others worry about the cost of purchasing reusable dishes (which of course is cheaper in the long term). But the switch can be made if you are willing to put in a little effort. Here are some tips to help your workplace switch from disposables to reusables:

  • Have an Ugly Mug competition. Encourage workers to bring in their ugliest coffee mugs for a chance to win a small prize. Afterwards, they can keep the mugs at work and eliminate the need for Styrofoam coffee cups.
  • Send out an email reminder before every staff event that encourages people to bring their own plate and utensil.
  • Dedicate a spot in the office or lunchroom for employees to store their dishes.
  • Buy a collection of plates, bowls, cups, and utensils for general use by all workers. If your employer won’t cover the cost, take up a collection among your coworkers. Most thrift stores have dishes and utensils for extremely low prices, so your money will really stretch.
  • If employees are paying to purchase food, either as a fundraiser or as part of your company’s meal plan, consider giving a discount to those who bring their own dishes.

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