Since taking the year off I have worried about how much I will remember from my first year, and panicking about how much I don’t know. One thing that has stuck with me through all the months off, is the thought of how much food is wasted. That one lecture made such an impact, that just over a year ago I wrote a blog about food waste.
What I learnt in that lesson has made me think about all sorts of waste, and these past few months working in a big firm situated in the middle of Canary Wharf it seems to be all I can see.
Just before Christmas I was sat eating my lunch at my desk and I put the plastic bag that it came in in a box under my desk. (You never know when you may need a plastic bag). It was then that I realised how many bags were stashed under my desk. People are more aware then they used to be about bringing your own bag when doing your supermarket shopping, but it seems that next to no one will take a bag to buy their lunch, or declines a bag for their sandwich and drink. This made me start thinking about the amount of waste that must occur everyday from people buying their lunch, coffee, soft drink, chocolates and crisps.
In Canary Wharf alone approximately 90,000 people travel into work, 5 days a week (if you’re an analyst in any of the big banks that probably means you’re there on weekends too).
If half of them buy their lunch (a drink, a main and a snack of some sort) that alone is:
45,000 plastic or paper carrier bags
45,000 plastic drink bottles
45,000 food packets which will include simple paper bags, soup bowls with plastic lids, paper and plastic sandwich boxes, cardboard and paper sushi boxes, large plastic salad containers, Styrofoam hot food boxes and I’m sure a plethora of other packaging materials that I haven’t thought of.
45,000 snack packets
30,000 bits of plastic cutlery (some people will use 2, some one and some none at all, so I’m just plucking this number out of the air)
In total that will be 210,000 bits of packaging that will either go into the bin, or with luck recycling… And that is just ONE DAY!!
This number isn’t accurate by any means, but all you need to do is be at Canary Wharf at lunch time to watch the hundreds and hundreds of people walking along with their lunch.
This is not taking into consideration the take away coffee cups, lids, sugar packets, wooden stirrers and cup holders. I started getting a free coffee on my way to work in the morning, which is a lovely thing, but now I have guilt that I am contributing to the land fill (although I recycle my cup and lid, and use the sugar in the bowl, not the sugar packets and I use a teaspoon at my desk to stir it)…. But it has definitely made me think.
I am not asking for people to bring their lunch in, nor am I asking them to not use any packaging. I am asking people to think of where their packaging is going, and question if they need a plastic or paper bag, or to reuse the bag they were given yesterday. The finance world is a busy business and people buy lunch out of convenience, but take a deep breath and next time you buy lunch just ask yourself how can you reduce your waste.