Businesses, scientists, innovators and teachers across Bristol are joining forces to tackle plastic pollution.
The Plastic Pollution Awareness and Actions Project (PPAAP) aims to end single plastic use – starting in the takeaway and restaurant industry.
The charity was set up by software engineer Naseem Talukdar, whose own parents ran an Indian restaurant, Rupali, in Kingswood, before they retired.
And now over 40 restaurant owners and managers have signed up to a pilot scheme to learn how to adapt to a plastic-free business.
A dozen restaurant owners and various representatives from the business community got together for a meeting to highlight the issue – and find solutions.
The Curry and Conversation event, held at the Bristol Central Quaker Meeting House in Champion Square, looked at cost-effective and convenient alternatives to plastic.
Naseem, who also heads the charity Feed the Homeless, which provides home cooked meals, said:
“My background in the restaurant industry and work with the homeless heightened my awareness of the huge amount of plastic used by takeaways.
“I wanted to speak out and rally people round, from a range of fields, to tackle this pressing problem and find a long-term solution.”
Some takeaways report using over a 1,000 containers a week and PPAAP is looking to reduce this nationwide.
Planet and marine life
The meeting was kicked off by marine conservationist and teacher Libby Bowles, who heads Tread Lighter to educate children on ways to protect our seas.
Libby, who has spoken to more than 10,000 school children, said:
“Even if you don’t feel a personal connection with the ocean, we need to keep the sea healthy because it provides us with more than half of the oxygen we breathe.”
Libby made a bamboo bicycle to cycle around the world and raise awareness about plastic pollution.
Libby, a former Badminton School pupil now based in Clifton, has also worked for five years with leading marine scientists in conservation.
“I have seen the plastic-filled stomachs of dead turtles and sea birds, as well as creatures still ‘wearing’ manmade debris. It’s heart-breaking to see.
“But I believe education is the most important tool to change the world. Children don’t need to wait to become adults to make lasting, meaningful change in their communities.”
Marine biologist Mae Dorricott, who has seen the effect of plastic on sea life first-hand, has called for people to start with small changes to avoid using plastic in everyday life.
Mae, who works as a researcher at award-winning Plimsoll Productions, which has worked on TV shows such as Hostile Planet, said: “It helps to be prepared, such as taking your re-usable coffee cup or shopping bag with you.”
Mae, who has a degree in marine biology and a Masters in science communication from UWE, has specialised in the study of our perception of plastic.
“TV programmes help to raise awareness but it does not impact on people’s behaviour perhaps as much as we would like to think it does.
“People are generally recycling and using reusable bags, which is trickling into reusable coffee cups, but there is still much more to be done.
“I think it’s more realistic if we start small and make lasting changes. I personally still have areas to work on.”
The commercially qualified scuba diver, who has worked with sea life around the world, said it is a global issue. She added plastic affects us all – whether we eat sea food or not.
“It’s in our beaches and in our seas. Plastic is made up of chemicals and it has an impact on us all. I think we all have our part to play in making this a better world to live in.”
Brothers Arran and Kirk Smith, a trained engineer and designer respectively, have been working on alternatives to plastic utensils.
The pair are responsible for the ‘Eco-Scoop’ – a biodegradable spoon which degrades in just 4 weeks – compared to the typical 500 years of some plastic utensils.
The item was shortlisted for a Lexus Design Challenge award and the duo continue to create environmentally friendly products.
“I think it’s important to make small changes as we cannot go plastic-free overnight. There are two ways to do – making products reusable or disposable.
“Disposable products may be seen as easier to adapt to for some people – rather than remembering to bring their own cups or utensils, for example.
“If we can make inroads in the restaurant industry then I think it can bring about significant change. Other areas, such as supermarkets, could then follow the lead.”
Thali, which runs award-winning Indian restaurants and eco tiffin takeaway food in Bristol city centre, Clifton, Easton, Montpelier, Southville and Totterdown, looks to recycle as much as possible.
The group, founded by Jim Pizer 20 years ago, follows the Indian mantra of ‘jugaad’ (do more with less).
It became the first Indian restaurant group to be awarded a Three Star Sustainability Champion Rating by the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2013.
The chain uses tiffins, a reusable lunchbox system, and has sold over 11,000 to date. They also recycle the majority of their waste, including food and plastics.
Co director Jose Blanco Rodriguez (aka Pepe), who is a keen scuba diver, said:
“As a diver, I have seen the impact plastic has on our seas and it’s awful.
“It’s simply not sustainable to use plastic everyday, but total eradication is not practical either. Our ethos is to reuse and recycle as much as possible.”
He said home delivery platforms and restaurants could work together to find a better solution.
Indian takeaway Rajastan Royal in Emersons Green is taking part in a PPAAP pilot scheme to reduce its plastic.
Owner Ibrahim Romel, 29, who lives in Staple Hill, met Naseem through the charity Feed the Homeless and regularly provided homemade food.
He was inspired by his two young children to help tackle plastic pollution.He said:
“My children would watch sea life on the television or visit the animals at the zoo and get very upset when they saw or learned of the impact plastic was having on them.
“I also think it’s important to do our bit to protect the planet for the next generation.”
The scheme will trial various products to find an alternative to plastic, with the aim to roll it to restaurants and takeways across the country.
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/PlasticPollutionAAP