Becoming a Plastic Free Champion: Ideas for plastic free swaps

Plastic Free Chesterfield are looking to sign up Chesterfield-based SME businesses to become an accredited Plastic Free Champion – that is a business who is making three swaps or more to reduce single-use plastics from their business operations. Check out these page for advice and ideas to make the switch away. Then when you’ve made the swaps, register your business.

Single-use coffee cups & lids

  • The problem: 2.5 BILLION single-use coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK
  • The solution: Remove single-use coffee cups and lids & incentivise reusables
    • Charge consumer extra for a disposable cup (e.g. 50p for a cup)
    • Provide a discount for those that bring their own cup and actively promote this at point of sale (recommended minimum discount of 25p)
    • Create a mug exchange, cup library or ‘cup loan scheme’ for customers who forget their reusables. Connect with your community and ask them to donate unwanted cups and allow customers to help themselves. You can either trust the customer to bring the cup back when they return next time or ask customer to pay a deposit which is refunded upon return of the cup
    • Provide double stamps on loyalty card for customers who bring their own cup, participate in the mug exchange or stay in
    • Sell reusable options and make customers aware of this
  • We do not encourage switching to compostable or biodegradeable cups. Whilst they might claim to break down faster than plastic-lined cups, they are still single-use and still require specialist waste processing facilities. Compostable cups should not be put in the general waste, recycling or food waste bins and instead should be sent to an industrial composting facility. As consumers generally take disposable cups off site, it is very unlikely that the consumer will take the responsibility to make sure the cup reaches a commercial composting facility.

Plastic bottles

  • The problem: 35.8 million plastic bottles are used in the UK every day and are often not placed in recycling bins. And bottled water uses up to 2,000 times the energy used to produce tap water
  • The solution: Remove single-use water bottles, visibly offer refill and provide free tap or filtered water
    • Provide free tap or filtered water with reusable cups available
    • Encourage people to bring reusable bottles and sell reusable bottles on site at accessible prices.
    • Identify your business as a refill station on the Refill app
    • Provide refill stations for other beverages, such as energy drinks, fizzy drinks and juices

Plastic bags

  • The problem: 2.1 BILLION plastic bags are sold in the UK per year, of which 1.58 BILLION are so-called ‘bags for life. Globally a plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes. Plastic bags are major pollutants.
  • The solution: Remove single-use plastic bags, encourage customers to bring their own & offer reusables if customers forget their bag
    • Encourage customers to bring reusable bags for shopping or collecting a take-away and offer discounts or rewards for such actions. Communicate this at point of takeout ordering, website or app.
    • Don’t automatically provide bags, ask the customer if they have their own bag or if they would like to purchase a sturdy reusable bag instead
    • Source reusable bags, for example cloth or net bags.

Single-use plastic foodware

  • The problem: These can take up to 1,000 YEARS to break down in landfill or nature after a single first use – is it worth it?
  • The solution: Remove single-use cutlery or utensils
    • Ensure all cutlery and utensils used on site are reusable and washable
    • Implement a reusable cutlery exchange or deposit system if people require utensils for takeaways
    • If unavoidable, such as for takeout purposes, source items made of compostable materials or fibre-based options such as wood and bamboo
  • The solution: Remove single-use plates and bowls
    • Supply reusable dishware, such as metal or porcelain plates and bowls. Do not provide single-use plates or bowls
  • The solution: Remove single-use take out containers (3 million tonnes of takeaway packaging is discarded every year in the UK)
    • Encourage customers to bring reusable containers for takeouts by offering a discount, and actively promote this. For example, if a customer orders a takeaway over the phone to collect at the shop, ask that they bring reusable containers and outline the discounts available for such behaviour
    • Create a ‘container exchange’ or deposit scheme for people that forget their own containers, encouraging people to select the reusable option and to revisit the establishment
    • Go old school and wrap food in paper or newspaper (think about what fish and chip shops used to do)
    • Incentivise customers to bring their own reusable containers with initiatives like ‘Tupperware Tuesdays’ incentivised with special discounts, prizes or shoutouts on social media

Single-use plastic drinks cups

  • The solution: Remove single-use cups for cold beverages, providing and incentivising reusables
    • Provide reusable plastic or steel cups. This is recommended for large scale events and beer gardens where cups are returned on site.
    • Create a cup exchange or loan system, where people can borrow or pay a deposit for a reusable cup for their cold drink, incentivising customers to revisit the venue

Single-use coffee pods and filters

  • The solution:
    • Use refillable coffee machines such as bean-to-cup coffee machines, French Press, ground coffee or pump espresso machines or cafetieres
    • Reusable and refillable coffee pods such as Waycap, Fill ‘n’ Save, Eko-Brew, Keurig, Sealpod, MyCoffeeStar or Recaps – make sure they fit your machine before purchasing!
    • Compostable coffee pods such as Halo, Eden Project, Dualit, Rave Coffee, Purpod100, Blue Goose and Grind
    • If you are unable to switch to an alternative, brands such as Nespresso, Tassimo and Dolce Gusto have bespoke recycling programmes for their pods

Plastic tea bags

  • The problem: Several tea bag brands use polypropylene, a sealing plastic, to keep tea bags from falling apart. Such tea bags are NOT recyclable or biodegradable and can leak microplastics into the hot drink. Scientists found that one plastic containing tea bag releases around 11.6 billion microplastics into the cup
  • The solution:
    • Most brands are working to eliminate plastic from their bags – check with your supplier.
    • If your tea bags do contain plastic, switch to a plastic free alternative, or even better, loose tea (from Cup & Saucer or Northern Tea Merchants)

Individually-wrapped foods and single-use plastic sachets

  • Solutions:
    • Provide ‘nude’ foods like cookies in a jar and loose fruit
    • Provide sugar and sweeteners in pots
    • Source condiments in bulk to reduce packaging
    • Provide milk in reusable jugs or flasks – no single use milk portions
    • No individually wrapped sweets at the end of the meal
    • Provide refillable condiment bottles or sauce dispensers

Single-use storage containers, plastic wrap and zip-lock bags

  • Solutions:
    • ‘BowlOvers’ – washable coverings for bowls or containers
    • Beeswax wraps – best used instead of cling film on top of bowls, plates or containers
    • Reusable food wraps – there are lots of different brands out there. These are washable and useful for smaller items
    • Reusable containers with lids, such as stainless steel, glass, or reusable plastic – these have multiple purposes, such as to marinate or store food in, from prep to leftovers. These are very strong and sturdy


  • Polystyrene cannot be completely recycled, is non-biodegradable and has been linked to health consequences as it can leach carcinogenic styrene. Just don’t use it.

Single-use soap containers

  • The solutions:
    • Install a refillable liquid soap dispenser in kitchen and bathrooms and order refills with Steph’s Sustainable Stuff
    • Replace plastic hand soap pumps with refillable glass bottle hand pumps (Mrs Greens Eco Store)
    • Solid soap bars without plastic packaging (see our Plastic Free Champions)
    • Soap powder flakes to make your own liquid soap for a dispenser


  • The problem: Disposable face-masks can last 450 years. Reports suggest there will be ‘more masks in the sea than jellyfish. 102 million disposable face masks are discarded each week in the UK.
  • The solutions:
    • Provide reusable face masks to staff – ensure they are washable, cover the mouth and nose and can be well-secured. There are a huge variety of reusable masks available to choose from (see our Plastic Free Champions)
    • Make your own facemasks
    • If you cannot avoid single-use, recycle them at Wilko
    • Wash hands with soap and water. A study by the American Society for Microbiology showed that using running water and soap is more effective than a dab of hand sanitiser
    • Opt for refillable hand sanitiser solution (Steph’s Sustainable Stuff)

Recycling at work

  • The problem: 1.3 million tonnes of packaging and 0.66 million tonnes of other ‘non-food’ wastes are thrown away by the UK hospitality sector every year. And 56% of packaging and other ‘non-food’ waste that is thrown away could have been readily recycled
  • The solutions:
    • Provide recycling bins in both front and back of house, clearly labelled with what can and cannot be put in the bin.
    • Make the recycling and sorting process as clean and simple as possible. You can make recycling easier by being mindful of the products you are sourcing – make sure all materials sourced can be recycled in house, or alternative bins are provided if specialist disposal is needed (E.g. for compostable coffee cups).
    • Put clear signage on bins. A simple rule suggested by First Mile is that 2D items (like plastic bags, film and cling film) are NOT recyclable, but 3D items like bottles and cartons ARE recyclable.
    • Make sure your staff understand the recycling process and how to separate different items.
    • Black plastic cannot be recycled – avoid whenever possible.
    • Make sure you clean and dry containers before putting in the recycling bin – food and water contamination are a big problem as recycling facilities will reject wet items with food residue.

Acceptable swaps to become a Plastic Free Champion:

  • Bagasse compostable takeaway packaging
  • Bags: Paper
  • Bags: Reusable
  • Bamboo Toothbrush
    • You can buy these from Steph’s Sustainable Stuff
  • Ban single-use plastic bottles at work
  • Ban single-use coffee cups at work
  • Ban single-use document wallets
  • Bin Tubs: Washable
  • Cardboard condiment containers
  • Cardboard packaging (not lined with plastic)
  • Central rubbish points to reduce
  • Cleaning Products: refills
  • Cloths: Reusable
  • Coffee: Loose
  • Coffee: Podless Coffee Machine
  • Coffee Cup: offering refills
  • Coffee Cups: Reusable
  • Condiments: Bottles, Jars or Bowls (refill)
  • Containers: Glass / Tin
  • Cups: Reusable
  • Cutlery: Reusable
  • Cutlery: Wooden
  • Decorations: Reusable
  • Drinks in cans
  • Drinks in glass bottles
  • Envelopes: Windowless
  • Foil & cardboard takeaway packaging
  • Jugs of water and glasses
  • Kitchenwrap: Reusable (instead of clingfilm)
  • Loo roll – plastic free
  • Lunches – plastic free
  • Tea: Loose
  • Milk: in glass bottles
  • Milk: reusable refills
  • Nappies: Real cloth
  • Pads: Reusable
  • Paper bags
  • Paper labels tied with string
  • Paper liners
  • Paper packaging
  • Paper tape
  • Pens/Pencils: Refills
  • Period products: Reusable
  • Shampoo/conditioner bars
  • Soap bars / refills
  • Stirrers: Reusable / wooden
  • Straws: Reusable
  • Sugar: Cubes
  • Sugar: Shakers
  • Takeaway: Refills
  • Toiletries: Refills
  • Water bottles: Refillable
  • Water: Offering a refill point
  • Wipes: Reusable
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

We would love to hear any alternative suggestions you may have. Contact us and let us know.

Good luck in your plastic-free journey.

Even if you just start with making one change it’s better than nothing and it is the start of your journey to reduce single-use plastics. Once you’ve made one swap then start looking at what your next will be.

Together we can push for a Plastic Free Chesterfield.