I believe Pret owes it to itself and its customers to take a leading position on the plastics problem. Like many other companies, we have lots to do to improve the reduction and recycling of our packaging. So far our teams and customers have been hugely supportive of new initiatives – doubling the discount for bringing a reusable coffee cup to 50p has had a big impact. Customers are also buying reusable bottles and using our free water stations. Plastic straws are on the way out. Wooden cutlery is being tested. This all helps but what else could we do to make an impact?
I recently visited our Hong Kong business for a five-day trip. Unfortunately, the late night flight home to London was cancelled and we were told to come back 24 hours later. I decided to use the free day to hike around the South East tip of Lantau. This is one of the most beautiful and least visited areas of Hong Kong, despite being very accessible to the airport.
Everything about the hike was glorious. The ancient temples, the quiet fishing villages, the butterflies and papayas, and the golden sands of the beaches. There was one exception. The industrial quantity of plastic bottles on the shoreline was truly horrifying. It seemed like a message: do something about plastic bottles, Clive.
Back in Britain, it’s estimated that as a nation we recycle just over half of the bottles that are sold. Meanwhile countries like Denmark and Germany have seen recycling rates grow to more than 90% after introducing deposit return schemes. So we’d like to trial our own deposit scheme on all Pret plastic bottles.
The idea is that we would add 10p to all plastic bottles and return 10p for each Pret bottle given back to our teams to recycle. The aim is to understand how many bottles are returned and to see if it encourages more customers to opt for a reusable bottle. We will of course reinvest any unclaimed deposits in future sustainability work.
It will take time to eliminate unnecessary plastic, but I hope this sort of initiative will bring that day forward by drawing attention to the issue and stimulating new ideas. We’d like to trial a deposit scheme this April in Brighton. We’ve chosen Brighton because we have three busy shops there and we know the local people are highly attuned to the environment. If it is successful we could extend the scheme across the country during the Autumn of 2018.
I invite you to give me your views on the deposit idea. Do you think 10p is enough? Is this a direction we should pursue?