UNHQ to remove all single-use plastic

Wed, 22/05/19

Starting in June, UNHQ will remove single-use plastics and replace them with more environmentally-friendly alternatives. This will be most apparent in the cafeteria facilities. If you work in UNHQ, get ready for some big changes…

Many UN colleagues at UNHQ feel that it’s time to lead by example in New York with regards to sustainability efforts. UNHQ already sends zero waste to landfill and purchases all its electricity from renewable sources, but starting in June they will also be removing single-use plastics from the complex and replacing them with more sustainable alternatives.

The world is overwhelmed by plastic waste; it is clogging landfills and destroying river and ocean ecosystems. The three most significant single-use plastics featuring in the waste stream are disposable coffee cups and lids, plastic cutlery, and plastic bottles. Did you know that approximately 150,000 plastic water bottles were sold at UNHQ cafés each year?

So, if you work at or are visiting the UNHQ complex you will start to see changes over the coming weeks, most apparent in the cafeteria facilities. Changes made centrally will include:

  • Replacing drinks in plastic bottles with drinks in glass, aluminium and/or other sustainable containers;
  • Replacing plastic coffee cup lids with paper lids; and
  • Replacing plastic food boxes with cardboard.

To cover the cost of annual inflation and the conversion to more sustainable alternative packaging, a price increase came into effect on 13 May 2019. However, UNHQ’s catering vendors are committed to seeking out less expensive sustainable alternatives as they become available.

In addition to the complex-wide changes, there are a number of steps that members of staff can personally take as part of UNHQ’s commitment to reduce waste and costs. These include:

  • Using stainless steel and/ or bamboo cutlery, which is available for purchase at all gift shops  within the building;
  • Bringing your own cutlery from home and keep it with your personal belongings;
  • Using a reusable water bottle, which can save around 200 plastic water bottles per person per year; and
  • Bringing your own mug for hot drinks. Cafés in the building already offer a stamp card which gifts you a free coffee after using your own mug ten times.

These changes follow a number of other greening initiatives implemented at UNHQ Cafés over the past year:

  • Implementing the reusable mug program - buy 10 get 1 free;
  • Replacing plastic coffee stirrers with wooden ones;
  • Replacing plastic straws with paper straws;
  • Replacing non-biodegradable disposable soup containers with eco-friendly alternatives;
  • Replacing plastic wrapped toothpicks with paper wrapped; and
  • Introducing boxed water.
For more information on waste management at UNHQ, please visit our UNHQ waste page and FAQs.

Categories: Waste