Last month, as part of Plastic Free July, millions of people around the world made positive strides towards reducing society’s dependence on single-use plastic. Melissa Palinkas, chef and co-owner of East Fremantle’s Young George, went one step further and pledged to transform her entire kitchen.
“My inspiration for removing plastic in my kitchen was the amount of waste generated by plastic containers and cling film,” she says. “My bins were being filled by plastic each service and being environmentally conscious is paramount to giving our Earth a chance.”
Although the entire makeover is set to cost around $5000, Palinkas says change is paramount and she has already noticed a dramatic change in the amount of plastic being thrown out.
“Seeing the nightly waste just freaked me out,” she says. “I knew it was going to be expensive to change, but one morning I saw my bins outside were so full, that the plastic containers just spilled out. When you see the build-up, it reminds you of the negative effect on the environment, the landfill plus the energy it takes to manufacture that container, and then we just use it once and throw it away.”
Single-use containers have been replaced with indestructible polycarbonate containers that are dishwasher-safe and easier to store. As well as doing away with disposable plastic containers in the kitchen, the bar has also removed single-use paper straws in the bar.
Palinkas says she had been thinking about making the change for more than a year but Plastic Free July helped push her to commit.
The rise – and waste – of single-use plastic is gaining momentum. According to Plastic Free July organisers, the world economy produced more plastic in the first decade of this century than the entire 1900s combined. Earlier this year, the ABC screened its three-part War on Waste series that, among other things, cast a critical eye on society’s reliance on plastic bags and plastic drink bottles.
Although Palinkas admits it’d be impossible to remove plastic entirely from her workplace, she urges her fellow hospitality industry colleagues to take a look at their own practices.
“I don’t think you can truly remove all plastic currently as we need to use cling film to wrap some things, but if we can make the leap from disposable plastic for storage, that will greatly reduce our carbon footprint,” she says. “We must all start somewhere and implement what we can, when we can.”