Refuse the straw — How we're reducing plastic use at Kyan

Refuse the straw — How we're reducing plastic use at Kyan
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash


Blue Planet II has had an amazing impact on popular culture, with Michael Gove mentioning the turtle and the plastic bag in PMQs, various high-profile campaigns in the media and on the high street and even The Queen banning single-use plastic from Buck House. Since the 5p tax on plastic bags the amount of waste in the oceans from bags has reduced by 80%, but the overall plastic waste found in fishing nets has remained the same, so there is plenty still to be done. At Kyan things are no different and we’re making a concerted effort to do our part.

When you start thinking about it, avoiding single-use plastic completely is really, really hard — I’ve still not found a way of buying crisps that aren’t in plastic bags (or tubs with plastic lids). However, the flip-side is that reducing your plastic use significantly is actually really easy.

Here’s how we’re reducing plastic at Kyan. It’s still a work in progress but there really are some big wins to be had – it just needs a bit of thought.

Old school milk bottles at Kyan
Guy, our friendly local milkman, delivers fresh pinters twice a week.

The milkman is your friend

On any given day we have 40+ people at Kyan Campus. Many of us eat porridge or cereal and have a predilection for milky lattes — and that’s before client meetings. This means we get through around 20-30 pints of milk a week. Previously we were buying six-pinters in our weekly shop from the supermarket, which are hideous, unwieldy and fill up the recycling bin in next to no time.

So, we Googled ‘milk deliveries’ and in next to no time we found Guy, our milkman, and had ordered our first milk delivery for later that week. Guy is lovely, and really flexible. We can call him the day before and change or cancel or order if needs be, so no worries about milk not getting drunk and going off. We now have milk delivered twice a week, so it’s fresher and we get the retro kudos of having lovely glass milk bottles (which of course are sterilised and reused).

Ten thousand bottles

I’ve had a bit of a bugbear about bottled water for some time now and it always really annoyed me that we used to provide small plastic bottles for client meetings, even if the water was bottled at source in England – the reasoning being that it’s ‘more convenient’. So I was really pleased when my fellow Directors supported me in stopping this practice. It was really easy – we already had chilled, filtered water plumbed-in and we had a good number of sturdy Duralex glasses, so all we needed was some decent size water jugs to go with them. Our clients are, if anything, happier with this setup. After all, given the choice, who really likes drinking from plastic bottles?

Fresh ground coffee from Redber, our local Guildford roaster, does it get any better?

Say ‘Yes!’ to fresh coffee

Capsule coffee, Nespresso et al … those little machines that have cropped up everywhere from kitchen counters to hotel rooms worldwide are really convenient, and the coffee is OK. But really, anywhere where you’re making more than a few cups a day it doesn’t make sense, it’s expensive and generates a huge amount of waste, and let’s face it — who knows how long ago the coffee was ground? In case you haven’t guessed, there are a fair few coffee aficionados at Kyan.

I’m ashamed to say we had one of these machines, and it got a lot of use. But now we have a great bean-to-cup coffee machine and a really kick-ass filter machine. Plus, we order our beans from the lovely local roasters at Redber Coffee. The result is we now have much better coffee, and although the bags of beans are lined with plastic, because we now order our java in kilo bags, it’s nowhere near as bad as the waste that was generated from the Nespresso machine.

Glass squash bottles
Squash in glass bottles, like it used to be.

Refuse the straw

So what else can we do? Well, we run a lot of events at Kyan, speaker conferences, local meetups and staff socials, and a lot of them involve food, drink and celebrating. It’s amazing how much plastic waste these events can generate if you’re not careful. But there are always options.

Having a cocktail party and you need straws? Use paper, not plastic. Same for plates, don’t buy plastic, paper will be fine, or better yet — use china! Make sure you take a reusable bag with you when you go shopping, and if you order food online then opt for bagless deliveries. We’ve changed our chosen brands of squash so that we now buy those in glass bottles too. I don’t want to be a killjoy, but I can’t think of a non-plastic option for balloons, so sorry about that, but probably best to avoid them. 🎈😢

WXG 2017
Me at our WXG event last year, draft beer is the eco option, right? No straws here :)

Room for improvement

We’re not perfect. I still see the odd single-use plastic bottle around the place. Buying soft fruit without a plastic punnet is pretty hard without going to a PYO setup, and I’ve already mentioned packets of crisps (and chocolate bars!). But the point is, we are trying, and all it takes sometimes is to think before you buy, quite often there are non-plastic alternatives, and remember you can make a difference, however small and you can make that difference daily — #everybitcounts