Since the beginning of July 2021, many single-use plastic items - such as disposable tableware, drinking straws or Styrofoam to-go cups - have been banned throughout the EU. In addition, restaurateurs will be required to offer a reusable alternative from 2023, which is a challenge given the simultaneous increase in take-away and delivery. VKK President Daniela Aug thinks the law does not go far enough.
Which products had to be sorted out due to the single-use plastic regulation? Which containers/packaging parts are the most difficult to replace?
We started looking at our to-go area some time ago and swapped the following products for environmentally friendly ones: drinking straws, stirrers, plastic cutlery and carrier bags were changed to wooden products. Now, aluminum bowls with lids for lunches, plastic wrap to cover, clear to-go cups for fruit salad and fresh salads, and coffee cups with interior foil are our focus. Possible substitute products are being tested. The only product without a positive result is soft plastic bottles of still water.
Which products/materials do you rely on as disposable substitutes?
For several months we have been looking for disposable substitutes, compostable products instead of aluminium trays for lunch menus, for take-away. As an alternative to plastic to-go cups for fruit salad, muesli, yoghurt, curds and salads, we have chosen corn starch products. We replace foiled coffee cups with either Bielefeld to-go cups made from Ornamin or paper cups made from sustainable wood products.
How do you rate the range of plastic alternatives?
The range is already diverse. Our suppliers have provided us with a catalogue of sustainable and "fair" substitutes for easier selection. The only downer at the moment is unfortunately the still relatively high price.
Are there any special regulations in the health care sector?
I am not aware of any special regulations. Of course, the focus should be on all products here and now. In the case of all individually portioned products such as butter, jam, coffee milk, etc., which have to remain portioned from a hygiene point of view, we are waiting to see what solutions the industry comes up with. There are also many other individually packaged sales items, such as hygiene items made of disposable plastic. So I beg the question, is this necessary?
How will the changeover be communicated to guests?
The flow of information will vary - both personal conversations and circular e-mails to customers. It remains to be seen what the reactions of the catering customers will be. We may have to think about a price surcharge and/or a deposit system.
Does the reusable system also affect you in the hospital environment? Which system will you use? When do you expect it to be implemented across the board?
Yes, we are also subject to the reusable system. Expectations are a thing, we depend on what the industry offers us, what alternatives we are offered and whether they can be implemented.
Have there been any significant additional costs in connection with the ban?
No, not so far. According to the price lists for the new products, we expect increased costs.
Every innovation leads to a higher price, but we should keep in mind that our habitat, the available resources, represent an unconditional value.
Did processes have to be changed?
The process changes are the next step in the chain - whether purchasing, warehouse, kitchen or sales area. Everywhere there they are adapted to the new situation. Not every alternative product will meet expectations 1:1. What has been running virtually as a matter of course until now now has to be reorganized.