How businesses can become part of the solution to the global plastic waste problem

4 min read | Paul Gosling | Article |

global plastic waste problem

Increasingly, job-seekers are purpose-driven and want to work for companies that support meaningful causes and align with their values. In fact, 74% of professionals surveyed in our Salary & Recruiting Trends guide say that a company’s commitment to sustainability goals is an important factor when choosing whether or not to work for them.

Employees are also becoming increasingly aware of corporate ‘greenwashing’, a reference to companies that make unconvincing or empty claims about their own environmental and sustainability initiatives.

Businesses that place corporate sustainability at the forefront of their agenda will stand out to potential employees. Whether it’s swapping out single-use plastics for reusable alternatives in office spaces or taking part in beach cleans, companies that are actively tackling the global plastic waste problem will also benefit from becoming an employer of choice for talent and an improved brand reputation.

What’s the reality of plastic?

The Global Plastics Outlook from the OECD indicates that the world’s generation of plastic waste has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Only 9% of plastic waste is recycled worldwide, while 22% is mismanaged and ends up in uncontrolled landfill sites – this has a devastating impact on terrestrial and aquatic environments. It’s in all our best interests to reduce plastic waste by cutting down on our use of single-use plastics.

There are multiple examples of plastics being used to create necessary medical supplies for one-time use, such as syringes, catheters, and surgical gloves. In these circumstances, the use of single-use plastics helps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by avoiding the need to disinfect and reuse devices.

However, people are becoming more aware of the environmental problems that the avoidable use of single-use plastics can cause. For example, disposable plastics don’t biodegrade; instead, they break down into microplastics that contaminate our marine and land ecosystems, harming wildlife and polluting our water and food sources. It’s critical that everyone reduces their plastic usage – and businesses should lead the way.

How can businesses reduce plastic use?

  • Swap plastics for reusable alternatives in the office. The most effective way to reduce your company’s plastic waste is to avoid using plastics in the first place, wherever possible. Plastic cups, water bottles, coffee cups, and straws can be easily replaced with reusable or recyclable alternatives.
  • Use sustainable suppliers that share your company’s green values and ambitions. By working closely with suppliers and requesting more sustainable options, companies can significantly reduce their environmental and social impact.
  • Set up an employee network or committee for people who are passionate about sustainability. Empower the committee to organise company-wide initiatives, events, and educational sessions focused on the importance of tackling plastic pollution and the ways to achieve this.

Zero Heroes at Hays: our internal committee promoting plastic-free initiatives

The role of our 'Zero Heroes' committee at Hays is to monitor the volume of plastic consumption in our offices, as well as to educate colleagues about the importance of reducing our plastic footprint and provide suggestions for more sustainable alternatives.

We're committed to putting sustainability in the spotlight and reducing the impact our business has on global plastic pollution, through initiatives such as the ban on single-use plastics across our offices and the improvement of recycling facilities in our workplaces.

We understand that action on plastic reduction is fundamental to protecting our environment, and we encourage other businesses to take action also. If you're looking to secure top talent for your upcoming sustainability projects, register a job with us today.


About this author

Paul Gosling, National Director for Sustainability Recruitment, Hays

Paul has been a specialist recruiter in environment and sustainability for over 25 years. He started recruiting into the sector in 1995 after finishing his BSc in Environmental Science and he’s worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of companies over the past 20-plus years to support their growth and development in this dynamic and critically important sector.

During this time, Paul has built a wealth of knowledge and he’s recognised as a leading expert on overcoming the unique recruitment challenges facing the environment and sustainability sector.

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