AUTHOR: TOM TANNER
Included within Eurostar’s ambitious Tread Lightly campaign is a goal to reduce plastic by 50% by 2020. A business-wide review revealed the train operator was giving away over 1 million plastic water bottles a year onboard its trains and in its Business Premier lounges in London, Paris and Brussels. The aim was to find an environmentally friendly water bottle.
How to get drastic with plastic
It fell to Catering Product and Service Assistant Manager Edward Brett to find a way of slaking passengers’ thirst while also satisfying the growing appetite for a product with a much smaller impact on the environment.
‘I was completely open-minded and embraced the challenge to source a water bottle able to meet Eurostar’s environmental standards, as well as fitting in with our logistical requirements such as being available in London, Paris and Brussels and fitting on our meal trays.”
Edward started out by looking at all the environmentally friendly water bottles currently available on the market, including edible water bubbles (too great a risk of messy accidents). Working with Eurostar’s supplier, Momentum, they were able to narrow down the options to a shortlist of six.
Seeking further specialist knowledge on how to make the right decision from a commercial and end-to-end sustainability point of view, Edward contacted the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) – of which it had been a member since 2012.
Water workshop helps turn on the tap
A call to the SRA’s Head of Membership, Ylva Johannesson started the ball rolling. The SRA was two years into a productive partnership with ethical water company Belu, which has included a responsible water service resource and the Unwrapping Plastic toolkit. So a bespoke water workshop, bringing together Belu’s expert knowledge on the social and environmental impact of bottled water, and the SRA’s industry insight seemed like the best way to help Edward make the correct decision.
“I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the water workshop and was slightly concerned that Belu would use this opportunity to sell their water to Eurostar. It couldn’t have been farther from that, the workshop was a tremendous success!
“Karen and Claire from Belu gave us a full rundown of all the products currently available on the market, how and where they were made and how easy it would be to recycle them. This included canned water and Tetrapak – which we discovered are currently hard to recycle.
“Belu really opened our eyes, helping us assess the pros and cons of all the different materials and producers, providing us with expert impartial advice on the available options. At the end of the two-hour session we were able to narrow down our list and progress with making an informed decision with the very latest information about all the products on the market and what’s expected to come to market soon.”
In fact, the workshop wins extended beyond bottled water. It helped Edward and Momentum identify 30 different single-use plastic products onboard Eurostar’s trains, including the meal tray lids. These have now been replaced with lids made up of 100% recycled plastic.
Karen Lynch, CEO of Belu, said: “As Belu’s overall mission is to inspire all businesses to become more sustainable, consulting impartially is a very obvious role for us to play. We were delighted to participate in the process and admire Eurostar’s use of test and learn processes to avoid unintended consequences of change.
“Overall, we are thrilled that more of the market is moving to higher percentages of Recycled PET and engaging with the environmental impact – something we’ve championed for seven years.”
For a multi-destination company like Eurostar there are a lot of boxes to tick, including environmental and logistical requirements. This time around Eurostar’s specific supply chain requirements, across three European capital cities were a key ingredient in securing the partnership for Radnor Hills. Belu’s ‘No Export’ policy ruled them out of the process.
Weighing up the water options
True to their commitment to consider all the water options, Eurostar conducted a canned water trial over two days in their London Business Premier lounge and on one return trip to Paris. Unfortunately, this product fell short as customers reported a ‘tinny’ taste and frustration at having to finish it in one go due to a ring pull lid. Eurostar were also not convinced of the environmental benefits – given that the cans had to be shipped from Austria.
Customer feedback gained from the canned water trial allowed Edward to narrow down the water products to a final three – Belu, Radnor and Harrogate.
Message on a bottle
Edward explains how they made their final choice. “In the end we went with Radnor Hills because they produced the bottle and extracted the water on the same site in Powys, Wales. They’re also a small family run business who were happy to include our logo and create a message to support Eurostar’s Tread Lightly campaign. Crucially though, Radnor’s bottles are made up of 51% recycled plastic – one of the most environmentally friendly options on the market, as well as fitting in with all our logistical requirements such as being available in London, Paris and Brussels. The new bottles were launched on board and all Business Premier lounges in January 2019.’’
With its 50% reduction targets front of mind though and a commitment to go further, Eurostar will be keeping its options open when they review their water service at the end of 2019.