How Leeds bars and clubs are waking up to plastic waste issue

Alice Hyam, the recycling project manager heading up efforts to reduce waste at Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen in Leeds. Pictures: Tony Johnson.
Alice Hyam, the recycling project manager heading up efforts to reduce waste at Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen in Leeds. Pictures: Tony Johnson.

Plastic cups trampled across the floor is still a common sight in venues after a busy gig or event.

But programmes like Blue Planet have made many businesses and venues wake up to the problem of plastic waste.

Read more: Leeds chosen as pilot city for UK’s first on-the-go recycling project

In Leeds’ Northern Quarter, Belgrave music hall and canteen has made some big changes to encourage more recycling and less waste.

All cutlery and plates from their kitchens are now biodegradable and the venue has cut out most plastic - it’s only used in their outdoor space, where licensing rules ban glass.

Alice Hyam, project manager at Belgrave, estimates that around 60% of all waste is recycled and that number is growing.

Customers at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen are being asked to do their bit.

Customers at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen are being asked to do their bit.

She said: “All the staff here are passionate about doing our bit for the environment, from the bar managers to the kitchen staff.

“It makes it easy to implement these changes, as across the team people really do want to help.

“We can’t keep ignoring the problems the planet faces - while it does add up to more of a cost and sometimes it’s a difficult transition, it’s been really well received by customers.

“The main difficulty is getting customers to use the designated bins for their food waste.

One of the signs now displayed in Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen to explain the idea behind the project.

One of the signs now displayed in Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen to explain the idea behind the project.

“We’ve put up posters and signs on the bins themselves and we’re working on getting more signs up around the venue.

“We really want to try and hammer home the message so that everyone’s doing their bit to keep waste to a minimum.”

Read more: Plastic bag usage down by 90% since 5p charge came in, says Leeds-based Asda

Leeds University Union (LUU), which has two bars and a club, have also pledged to become plastic free by 2023 as part of a joint initiative with the University.

A list of items that customers can choose to recycle at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen.

A list of items that customers can choose to recycle at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen.

The union stopped ordering plastic straws in 2017 and uses reusable polycarbonate glasses for their club nights.

Tom Oladipo, LUU’s Community Officer, said: “It’s important for us to drive the change in best practice in our industry.

“LUU are known to host some of the best live music in the city, so we need to set an industry standard and lead the way in removing single-use plastics from our venues.

“If we were to give one tip to other venues in the city, it’s to be careful with products that claim to be compostable, as they may still end up in landfill if you don’t have a contractor to collect them in your area.”

Zero Waste Leeds, a project campaigning to make Leeds waste-free by 2030, have praised Belgrave and Leeds University Union for their efforts.

The project are working with local people and businesses across the city to help them waste less and to reuse and recycle more.

Read more: Turning the tide on plastic pollution - one Leeds student speaks out

Rob Greenland, co-director of Zero Waste Leeds, said: “People are more and more interested in how they can make a difference, particularly with reducing plastic waste.

“We want to use this interest in plastic waste as a starting point to make bigger changes, making sure that as a city we’re recycling all we can.”