Trim the Single-Use Plastic from Your Overhead 

According to UNEP, “Humanity produces more than 430 million tonnes of plastic annually, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that soon become waste, filling the ocean and, often, working their way into the human food chain.” At this rate, and with no change to our habits, we could live in a reality where there is more plastic in the ocean than fish. That’s one sushi special we want to avoid! 

Why should you care about plastic pollution? 

Plastic pollution might seem like an abstract problem, but it has real and immediate consequences for our planet, our health, and our future. If you care about your health or the health of the people you love (or employ), you should know your options for reducing plastic pollution. 

The production and disposal of plastic contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Most plastics are made from fossil fuels, and their production process releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Unlike other materials, plastic is not biodegradable. About 46 percent of plastic is landfilled, and as it breaks down over hundreds of years, it damages soil and poisons groundwater. Additionally, when plastic waste is incinerated, it releases even more greenhouse gases.


In this article, we explicitly discuss single-use plastics. This distinction is important because we aim to offer attainable solutions that yield significant results.

What can a company do to reduce plastic waste? 

Let’s start with entities well-positioned to decrease waste from single-use plastics dramatically. Why is that the case? Businesses most often purchase single-use plastics in bulk. From takeout containers to cutlery to packaging and tags, the prevalent use of disposable plastic at a company level makes it difficult for individuals to reduce their use and waste. 

Some good news is that many companies have adopted a reduce-reuse model by designing spaces with kitchenettes to house dishes and glassware. Some also installed SodaStream to reduce the number of canned beverages ordered. When single-use products are necessary, they opt for bamboo or another biodegradable option. This seems small but tremendously effective when considering companies that employ hundreds and thousands of people. 

image with IKEA logo and a data point reading "IKEA reduced plastic in consumer packaging by 47% between FY21 and FY23"

On a larger scale, IKEA spends over 1 billion Euros on approximately 920,000 tonnes of packaging material annually. So, it was a big deal when IKEA announced it would phase out plastic from consumer packaging by 2028. “Phasing out plastic in consumer packaging is the next big step on our journey to make packaging solutions more sustainable and support the overall commitment to reduce plastic pollution and develop packaging from renewable and recycled materials. The shift will happen progressively over the coming years, and mainly be focusing on paper as it is both recyclable, renewable, and widely recycled across the world,” said Erik Olsen, packaging and identification manager at IKEA of Sweden, in the 2021 announcement.

IKEA reduced plastic in consumer packaging by 47% between FY21 and FY23. As IKEA continues this phase out, it alleviates the burden typically bestowed upon the individuals whose only choice is to throw it in the trash. See above for a reminder of why trashing plastic trashes our health. That said, IKEA is transparent that plastic packaging might remain in some parts of their food range to secure quality and food safety standards beyond 2028, in which case it will come from renewable or recycled sources.

Where to start with reducing single-use plastic?  

JouleBug beat plastic pollution challenge

We need to phase out plastics on both a large and small scale where possible. Start by auditing your office to establish a baseline understanding of your overall waste and single-use plastic. From there, you can set actionable, attainable goals and help your employees achieve those goals by leveraging JouleBug. We have a foundational Beat Plastic Pollution challenge to introduce this topic. Pro tip: Involve your employees at every level of the plastic reduction journey to optimize your results. 

Do your best to stock your office with reusable items for everyday living: cups, mugs, plates, silverware, shopping bags, etc. (Check out our Sustainability actions for more inspiration). Our office went the extra mile by stocking JustSalad reusable bowls, which reward waste reduction with a free topping. If you’re a hybrid or fully remote company, encourage your employees to adopt these habits. Never underestimate the collective power of many people taking small actions. 

If you’re ready to level up and master the next challenge, consider ordering staples from a local refill store, maybe one on wheels like TOPUP TRUCK. Driven by a desire to make plastic-free shopping as easy as possible, TOPUP TRUCK is “the refill store that floats to your door.” Here is a fun idea: have them visit your office weekly so your employees can refill and reduce post-work chores. 

As you tackle the daily office experience, you’ll notice more areas where you can reduce single-use plastic. Like the welcome package for new hires or the swag you offer at your exhibit booth. The more you educate your employees on your goal to reduce single-use plastic, the greater the chance they’ll propose solutions for more areas of the business. Empower them with the tools and resources to understand the problem so they can solve it at work and in their daily life. 

Remember: It’s always the right time to take action. Are you ready to be the leader your industry needs?