Plastics Surgery

Help Cut Single Use Plastic In Dorset

Dorset has some of the best beaches and bathing waters in the country. However, there is a big issue with litter on these beaches, much of which comes from people dropping or leaving litter in these special places. We are working with Dorset Food & Drink and The Arts Development Company through the Dorset Coastal Connection Project to offer local businesses the opportunity to join us and help reduce the amount of litter found at Dorset’s beaches.

What are single-use plastics?

Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These items are things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging.

Why are they an issue?

The research says:

A study by Unilever reveals that a third of consumers (33%) are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. 

Litter Free Coast & Sea’s aim is to:

Help local businesses to move away from single-use plastic and change to more sustainable options that is cost effective for them and helps with the litter issue at the beaches. We use the Waste Hierarchy as our guide, with the best first approach to REDUCE any excess or unnecessary packaging, followed by the REUSE of containers by encouraging customers to bring their own and/or provide reusable options. The last option is to resort to using single-use packaging that can be RECYCLED/COMPOSTED.

Image sourced from –

Plastic Surgeries

We ran 3 Plastic Surgery events at West Bay, Bournemouth and Weymouth in February 2018, where local food outlets and kiosks were provided with information and support to switch to changing changing their food and drink packaging. They also had the opportunity to meet and talk to eco-friendly and sustainable packaging suppliers, along with listening to other local businesses who have already started their journey to reduce the amount of waste they produce.


We would now like to share what we have learnt with you, so that you can make the change and reduce the amount of single-use plastic you use. We are not experts but we hope that with our research and information below you can make an informed decision on what you do next.

Need some inspiration?

Easy ways to make the switch: 


  • Change from serving plastic straws to either removing them completely or by offering reusable straws.
  • Takeaway food containers – switch from Styrofoam to Cardboard or encourage people to bring their own.
  • Switch from plastic water bottles or offer customers free water by joining our Refill Scheme. perhaps sell reusable water bottles and make a profit by doing so.
  • Offer discounts for people using reusable coffee cups (you could even sell these cups to allow new customers to choose this option).
  • get rid of small plastic sauce sachets and replace with refillable condiment dispensers.
  • Use wooden/bamboo cutlery instead of plastic.

Understanding the different packaging types

Here is some information to get you thinking about the different types of options for serving food or drinks at your business and which one may be best for your business. We have rounded up what we beleive to be the main types on offer at this moment in time and have outlined the advantages and disadvantages for each:

[lvca_accordion][lvca_panel panel_title=”Reusable”]Reusable packaging is packaging that is used more than once and is designed for repeated reuse, e.g. coffee cups, straws or water bottles.



  • Direct savings in packaging purchase and disposal cost as a result of repeat reuse.
  • More sustainable as less packaging waste is being produced/discarded.
  • Reusable packaging can be designed to suit your needs.
  • There is potential to use your reusable products s a marketing channel, as it offers opportunities to include your brand.


  • Reusable packaging is more expensive than other alternatives.
  • Not all customers want to pay extra for reusable items.
  • There is not as much choice compared to expendable packaging, due to lack of suppliers and cost.

[/lvca_panel][lvca_panel panel_title=”Alternative Plastics “]If you have exhausted all the opportunities for reducing packaging and you have introduced as many reusable packaging options as possible then you might start looking into alternative plastic packaging. This is a bit of a minefield and it can be very confusing to determine which type is the best for your business and for the environment. The best option on paper might not be in practice if the packaging cannot be collected and processed as it was designed to be.

Our advice would be to ask the following questions to the suppliers when you are looking into different plastic alternatives:


  • What is it made of? Most plastic alternatives are made from 100% renewable biomass source, such as corn starch. However, some are made of a mixture between oil derived plastic and renewable materials. – these do degrade more quickly than oil derived plastic but still obviously have plastic in them.


  • How does it degrade? There is a big difference between degradable, biodegradable and compostable.


  • Degradable – Everything is degradable, so this isn’t necessarily a positive environmental claim. For example, oil derived plastic is photodegradable – meaning it breaks down in sunlight – however, plastic is damaging to the environment because it never breaks down completely and remains as micro plastics – it can be recycled though.
  • Biodegradable – An object can be biologically broken down by microorganisms.
  • Compostable – When a product biodegrades to produce carbon dioxide, water and humus within a specified period of time.


  • Where and how can it be collected and processed? Compostable packaging is designed to be processed in an industrial composting facility. It won’t compost in the marine or natural environment or in a landfill site. There aren’t many industrial composting facilities in the UK and none we are aware of in Dorset. Therefore we would recommend checking with the company selling you the product where and how it can be collected and processed.


Please bear in mind that if your customer puts their compostable item in a street bin/household bin in Dorset it will not be composted. At the moment it will be processed generating energy from waste


More advantages and disadvantages around compostable packaging made from 100% renewable biomass source are:



  • Made from plant materials which are renewable, unlike oil which is from a limited and finite resource.
  • Non-toxic and won’t leach chemicals into food.
  • Can still be composted if contaminated with food and drink – this is great because some plastics, card and paper based packaging cannot be recycled if they are contaminated with food and drink.
  • If processed in an industrial composting facility the resulting product can be put onto land as compost.
  • If processed in an industrial composting facility then it diverts waste from landfill.


  • Not recyclable – designed to be composted, therefore cannot be recycled again and again.
  • Are not necessarily better for the marine environment if they are littered – they are designed to be composted, not to break down in the marine environment therefore may not be any better than plastics int he marine environment if littered.
  • Some of the plant material used for compostables comes from GM sources – some see this as a negative and others don’t.
  • Compostables could potentially encourage people to litter more as they assume they will biodegrade in the natural environment.
  • The infrastructure needed to get used to compostable packaging to industrial composting facilities for processing is not in place in Dorset yet. Therefore it might be difficult to get your used packaging composted.
  • Recycling contamination risk – if alternative plastics get into the plastics recycling system then they can cause issues. They can reduce the quality of the recycled plastic and mean that they cannot be recycled anymore.
  • Can cost a bit more than standard packaging – however some customers are willing to pay more to help the environment.
  •  Soil erosion and environmental impact of growing/irrigating and harvesting this type of product tends to be more carbon intensive than plastic.

[/lvca_panel][lvca_panel panel_title=”Cardboard/Wooden/Paper Alternatives”]Examples include cardboard containers for chips, wooden cutlery and paper straws.



  • Cardboard, paper and wooden packaging are made from renewable materials.
  • If not contaminated with food, cardboard, paper and wooden packaging is recyclable.
  • Cardboard and wooden packaging can be reused.
  • Cardboard, paper and wooden packaging is relatively cheap to buy.


  • Cardboard and paper products are not water resistant.
  • If contaminated with food and drink these products are not able to be recycled.
  • Some cardboard packaging products have plastic lining (watch out for this).
  • Depending on what the packaging is being used for, some items still have a single-use lifespan.

[/lvca_panel][lvca_panel panel_title=”Plastic”]Plastic packaging is created with petroleum, which is popular for its durability and low manufacturing cost. Examples include plastic water bottles, drinks bottles, plastic cutlery and sauce sachets.



  • Plastic continues to be the most affordable packaging material, making it very cost effective.
  • Plastic is durable, meaning it can last for a long time.
  • Plastic is light in weight and easy to handle.
  • Plastic is waterproof, tear proof and shatterproof. This makes it easy to manage, transport and store.
  • Some plastic packaging can be recycled. You would need to check with your chosen waste collection company to find out which ones they can collect.


  • Disposable plastics used in packaging foodstuff contain harmful compounds. Improper disposal of these packaging products leads to these harmful compounds finding their way to water bodies, where they dissolve over a long time due to their non-biodegradable nature.
  • Plastics that end up as litter can be harmful to animals.
  • Plastics are non-biodegradable, often taking hundreds of years to decay. This is due to the inter-molecular bonds  that constitute plastics, whose structure ensures that the plastics neither corrode nor decompose.
  • Plastic litter can clog waterways causing pollution and making it costly to get rid of them.
  • Plastic generally have low melting points, meaning some plastic products are highly flammable.
  • Plastic packaging that is contaminated with food and drink may not be able to be recycled.


Businesses already doing well

Take a look at our case studies to see how local businesses across Dorset are already making the switch to more sustainable packaging. We hope that by seeing how other businesses are changing their approach, it may help inspire and educate you to do the same. 

[lvca_accordion][lvca_panel panel_title=”Park Cafes”]Park cafes are owned and operated by Bournemouth Borough Council. They take their environmental responsibility seriously and try to include biodegradable straws, napkins, coffee cups and lids, along with wooden drink stirrers and kraft card heat sleeves.


Darren from Park Cafes explains how “it is recent policy that we have enforced over our 7 outlets, as we really believe in making these changes and the immediate impact it can have. Our business is positive because of what we have done and our customers really accept what we are doing”.


To find our more about Park Cafes, click here.


[/lvca_panel][lvca_panel panel_title=”Baboo Gelato”]Baboo Gelato make handmade ice cream, with two kiosks, one in West bay and one in Lyme Regis. They have recently started their journey to reduce the amount of waste they produce.


They have already switched to compostable and biodegradable spoons, coffee cups, napkins and sticks. This year they are implementing a shift away from plastic water bottles, no longer selling bottled water they will offer water for free, with the aim of enhancing customer loyalty.


Sam Hanbury, from Baboo Gelato admits “the trigger for switching from plastic bottles, was Blue Planet. We have been working gradually towards our goal, but it definitely gave us a kick up the backside. We’ll continue to try to improve from her on. It is a journey, and we know we have a way to go. We believe we have to approach it holistically, it is easy to score a point by getting rid of plastic bottles but what else is our impact in term of electricity usage, food miles, animal welfare, recycling, packaging waste and just general unnecessary consumption? Each of these needs to be thought of. Customers are savvy these days and can see through companies that are only going through the motions”.


To find out more about Baboo Gelato, click here


[/lvca_panel][lvca_panel panel_title=”The Cave Kiosk”]The Cave Kiosk in Weymouth has taken a novel approach to reduce their waste, they have adopted a Mug Trust System. Instead of serving their hot beverages in disposable cups, they offer them in ceramic mugs allowing customers to take them away and return them once finished.



Businesses who have shown an interest

All three Plastic Surgery events held in West Bay, Bournemouth and Weymouth had promising turnouts with lots of local businesses turning up interested to find out more or eager to make the switch to a more sustainable approach. We will be helping these and more businesses over the next year and we will update you on their progress as we go along. To see what businesses attended, the ones making steps to help make Dorset Litter Free, check out the list below: 

[lvca_accordion][lvca_panel panel_title=”List of Businesses”]

  •  Transition Town Bridport
  • Hive Beach Company
  • Anchor Inn – Seatown
  • Snack Shack – West Bay
  • Electric Palace
  • Marine Theater – Lyme Regis
  • Mallams Restaurant
  • Marlboro Restaurant
  • Knoll Beach Cafe
  • Sands Z Sandwich Bar
  • Christchurch Borough Council
  • Sustainable Dorset
  • Little Tin Kitchen
  • AJ Supplies
  • Bella’s
  • Olives st al
  • Palmers Brewery


The Arty Bit

As part of this work we will be commissioning an artist for 2019 that will celebrate local businesses that have reduced their amount of plastic and considered their packaging in regards to using environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging/products and encourage the public to support these businesses.


We currently do not know who the artist will be or what amazing piece of art will be created yet but we will keep you up to date as things progress.

Dorset Coastal Connections

This project is part of Dorset Coastal Connections portfolio of 18 projects across Dorset’s Coast which aim to improve physical, digital and emotional connections between people (both residents and visitors) and the spectacular Dorset Coast. These projects all benefit from funding from the Coastal Community Fund, a grant from central government to improve coastal areas and are coordinated by Dorset Coast Forum. 


For more information about the Dorset Coastal Connections projects portfolio, click here.

Find out more

If you are a local business who would like to find out more or would like to keep up to date with our Plastic Surgery campaign, please join our Facebook Community Group or get in touch via our Contact Page