August 1, 2020

Plastic free terraces

Chilling out on a terrace without worrying about disposable plastic blowing into the canals? That's possible in Leiden. The terraces of Brasserie De Poort and Tanoor, at the Haven, will be completely free of disposable plastic from 1 August 2020. Lot and the Whale will join later. And Logica, on the Stille Rijn, has been free of single-use plastic since its establishment in 2014.

Text by Maaike de Waele (We are Nature)

Disposable plastic is lightweight, it easily blows away. If terraces stop doing this, a lot of harmful litter will be saved. A positive side effect is that this step usually also leads to less residual waste (lower waste costs for the company and less CO2 emissions). In addition, restaurants gain experience with more circular business operations.

Movement Plastic Free Terrace

The four Leiden restaurants mentioned above all sign the Plastic Free Terrace declaration. They will hang them visibly to indicate that they will keep all disposable plastic (from straws to sauce bags and disposable cups) off their terraces.

The national Plastic Free Terrace movement is ahead of European legislation banning a number of one-off plastics (including straws and disposable crockery) from July 2021. Unfortunately, not all catering material is covered by this EU ban. Plastic Free Terrace, therefore, goes further. For example, the participating restaurants will no longer use plastic biscuit wrappers, honey sticks, mayo bags, milk cups, and tea packaging. They will either omit these or replace them with organically biodegradable and/or reusable materials.

Plastic soup
The volume of plastic litter in the oceans and seas is growing, including in the North Sea. This is at the expense of ecosystems and global biodiversity. Moreover, there are suspicions that microplastics affect human health, which is a topical subject of scientific research. Nearly half of litter on European beaches consists of disposable plastic. And half of that comes from catering establishments!

Last year, fourteen beach pavilions in Scheveningen decided to ban all single-use plastic from their terraces. So this summer the aforementioned restaurants in Leiden will follow. This water-rich city has many dozens of terraces on open water, which are connected to the sea. Avoiding plastic is also important for the local ecology. Auke-Florian Hiemstra, biologist at Naturalis, is doing research into plastic in the nests of the Leiden coot. He came across buildings full of catering waste.

copyright Auke-Florian Hiemstra (Naturalis)

Joint campaign
Leiden has the first Dutch city centre location to join the Plastic Free Terrace movement. The plastic-free terraces at the harbour are the start of a local campaign, to which other terrace locations in Leiden can join. The campaign is an initiative of We Are Nature, Duurzame Horeca Leiden en omstreken and Plastic Spotter, with financial support from the municipality of Leiden.


We Are Nature is a collective of freelancers who, in cooperation with the sustainability circle of The Hague pavilion holders, set up the Plastic Free Terrace movement.

The team of Plastic Spotter has been doing research into plastic in Leiden waters for years. The Plastic Spotters are now collecting material from six canoes. They register, analyse, exhibit and report on the types of plastic found. Their system makes a previously largely invisible environmental problem urgent and tangible.

Rules of the game

Single-use plastics are plastics that are made to be used only once. As a result, they cause an unnecessarily high waste pressure. The Plastic Free Terrace movement focuses specifically on single-use catering materials. Here are the rules:

Exclude all single-use plastics

Also no PLA (plastic made from vegetable materials, such as potato/maize starch)
This applies to all outdoor areas of the company

When participating, a catering establishment declares to keep all single-use plastics and PLA off the terrace. PLA is not an acceptable plastic substitute, for two reasons. Firstly, PLA only breaks down in industrial composting machines, and not in nature. And if a restaurant collects its compostable waste separately, there is little chance that PLA and plastic will be properly separated when it is very busy. If PLA ends up between the plastic waste, this plastic can hinder recycling. PLA affects the quality of the petroleum plastic recyclate.

For entrepreneurs

We Are Nature helps hospitality entrepreneurs with the transition to a plastic-free terrace. We know the alternatives, and we bring the practical experience of already connected terraces to new participants, making the transition easier.

There are three strategies to choose from:
- Omission of the material
- Replace disposable by reusable
- Replacement of plastic by biodegradable

We focus primarily on the terrace, because the plastic from outdoor areas easily ends up in nature. In kitchens and other indoor spaces we also find a lot of disposable plastic, but this can be dealt with later.

The four restaurants in Leiden show that participation doesn't have to be so difficult. Plastic Spotter, Duurzame Horeca Leiden (eo) and We Are Nature cordially invite other hospitality entrepreneurs to join the movement. Would you like more information about the project? Then take a look at: http://plasticvrijterras.com/

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