Melanie Loughney

#BeyondPlastic Champion, British Embassy Helsinki

Part of #BeyondPlastic

2nd August 2019

5 Steps to Making Your Event Free From Single Use Plastics


When planning an event there are lots of factors to take into consideration and it is becoming ever-more important to think about how to protect the environment as a part of this planning. It is our responsibility to look after our planet and there are ways we can all contribute with just a little extra thought. Some creativity to put ideas into action will eventually become embedded routines that will soon feel like no effort at all.

We at the British Embassy Helsinki are doing just that; searching for ways to not only recycle, but to reduce our consumption, particularly in regards to avoidable single-use plastics (SUPs). The reason we are doing this is because we are facing a huge crisis. It is estimated that around 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, most of which is avoidable plastics such as bottles and straws. Experts believe that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

The plastic crisis urgently demands innovators, industry, and governments to work together to tackle the current situation and to develop systemic solutions that prevent plastic from becoming waste in the first place. The UK Government has pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as outlined in the Government’s environmental plan for the next 25 years. At BE Helsinki our #BeyondPlastic and Green Team has set a target to remove all avoidable SUPs by the end of 2019. We are implementing ways to achieve this across the Embassy but the Residence is the place where this is the biggest challenge.

Hosting networking events, such as garden parties, are essential for the core work of diplomatic missions to promote friendly relations between the host country and the home country, and to develop commercial, economic, cultural, and scientific relations. Sadly, all too often this means a mountain of avoidable plastic waste. To start to tackle this problem, this summer we held our QBP aiming to be free from SUPs, which we achieved very well and learnt a lot for future events.


The remainder of this year will be a busy time at BE Helsinki as Finland is the host country of the EU Presidency. At our many events to come, ranging from coffee meetings to large garden parties, and everything in between, we will be free from SUPs by following a few simple steps. Here are our five top tips to holding your event free from SUPs:

  1. Send e-vites rather than paper invites. While paper invites may be nostalgic, they are not environmentally the best option and are also time-consuming. If you are having a large event, you probably want people to rsvp online anyway so this makes sense all round.
  2. Provide biodegradable or reusable products in place of the normally used plastic, such as paper straws, paper plates, and wooden or bamboo cutlery. Alternatively, serve finger foods so you avoid this problem altogether.
  3. Even better than using paper cups would be to use a hire company for glassware and crockery. As a bonus, this also saves you time on cleaning after a hectic event. Plus you could help a local business at the same time!
  4. Serve tap rather than bottled water. If you want to serve sparkling then buy glass bottles rather than plastic. While it may be more costly, remember that the environmental cost makes it undoubtedly worth it.
  5. Use cardboard boxes for any rubbish rather than plastic bin bags. For food waste, use bio-bags rather than black bin bags. Even better, you can fashion a small bin using old newspapers.

With just a little forward planning and creative thinking there really is no need for single-use plastics in any event anymore. The challenge for us is getting rid of single-use plastics that we use day to day in the Embassy and the Residence but I am sure as long as everyone has an open mind this is absolutely achievable.

We are already putting plans in motion and sharing our ideas, not just with other British Embassies such as through this blog, but also with other countries’ Embassies in Helsinki. We are leading the way in refusing, reducing, reusing, recycling and looking forward to encouraging and supporting others in doing the same.


2 comments on “5 Steps to Making Your Event Free From Single Use Plastics

  1. Hello,

    All these 5 steps are so amazing, I really like such posts which care about the environments.

    Thank you for sharing this amazing article.

    1. Thank you so much. We have done much since then and I will be writing another article this week so look out for that 🙂

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