Putting plastic out of place in the kitchen

By Jack Feeny – No Mise En Plastic – a free resource putting plastic out of place in the kitchen.

Like many chefs before me, I was taken aback by the waste I saw on a daily basis coming out of kitchens I worked in. After burning through hundreds of portion bags and roll after roll of cling film, I searched for a kitchen that was focused on having as little impact on the environment as possible. This led me to The Conduit, a restaurant committed to using sustainable, seasonal food without using any single-use plastic. It was a great experience to work in a place that was creating exciting food without filling the bin with plastic and food waste.

I had wanted to be more sustainable in other restaurants, but the task seemed daunting. What really shocked me at The Conduit was how easy it was to move from relying heavily on single-use plastic to entirely cutting it out of the kitchen. The Conduit’s busy events kitchen catered for huge numbers whilst a finer dining restaurant ran on above it, both thriving without creating bags of disposable waste.

I thought if only other chefs knew how simple it was, maybe more of them would make changes. So I started to plan a free manual to help chefs eliminate single-use plastics from the kitchen. When COVID 19 came around, I used the extra time from furlough to really push this project forward. I began speaking to as many chefs as possible and carried out a survey to gauge interest. The results showed that the majority of chefs were keen to reduce their environmental impact – as long as it didn’t affect the quality of the food. It showed that chefs were willing to change but needed to have the solutions ready – overworked chefs don’t have time to find and test the best alternative to plastic-coated labels. The survey also highlighted that if a few restaurants started making changes, then that would inspire others to do the same.

This feedback helped to shape No Mise En Plastic’s manual. It’s a completely free resource which provides accessible, clear, practical solutions to take plastic out of the kitchen, whilst showcasing inspiring chefs and restaurants creating great food, single-use plastic free.

No Mise En Plastic is a collaborative effort between an expanding network of chefs. The information in the manual was taken from my personal experience but also that of many chefs working in environmentally progressive places. It is an ever-growing resource, welcoming chefs to share new products and contribute ideas to avoid unnecessary waste in an innovative way.

Removing single-use plastic from your restaurant doesn’t immediately make it sustainable. Although ditching those disposables does have an important impact, there are so many different ways of reducing a restaurant’s environmental footprint, that are equally necessary. What removing plastics does offer though, is a good way to alter the mindsets of chefs.

One chef refusing to use clingfilm in their kitchen can encourage others to ask questions. It can make the whole team start to value the materials they use daily and to wonder about the effects of using lots of it. Seeing how easy it is to avoid single-use plastic and witnessing the positive response from their customers, can then inspire that team to look for other ways to have that meaningful impact.

Quick Plastic Hack: Plastic coated labels are expensive, impossible to peel off containers and millions end up in landfill every year. Try using recycled kraft paper tape instead. It’s a lot cheaper and it can be composted or recycled with the cardboard once you’re finished.

Take a look at the manual for links to where you can buy this tape (no affiliations).

Also If you’ve any great alternatives to unnecessary plastic or if you’ve already made some changes, then let us know at [email protected] so we can celebrate it!

Together we can put plastic out of place in the kitchen.

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