"Power to the people!" - why chef Luke Holder is taking on the battle against plastic.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th February 2018

One overpackaged delivery of saffron. One tweet. One beloved veteran naturalist and broadcaster. One frustrated chef and eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste have helped spearhead Luke Holder’s #chefsagainstplastic campaign.

It was the tweet which captured people’s hearts and consciousness, chef Luke Holder seemed to speak for a nation of chefs and consumers when he shared an image of the excessive plastic packaging from a delivery of saffron to the Hartnett Holder & Co restaurant at the Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest.

Luke was not only frustrated by the time and money wasted on decanting and disposing of this unnecessary plastic packaging but had been galvanised by the footage from Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet which demonstrated the significant impact that plastic waste is having on the worlds marine life.

Luke said: “I don’t know how many people watched Blue Planet, but it resonated…and my kids are sat there asking me, why does that turtle have a straw up his nose?” This, (along with that damn saffron!) was the impetus for Luke’s #chefsagainstplastic campaign which has clearly struck a chord with the public and his fellow chefs, including Luke’s business partner Angela Hartnett, Paul Ainsworth, Gizzi Erskine and Tom Kerridge. 

Luke admits that the amount of reaction he received on social media was ‘a bit overwhelming’ at first, but was generally very positive and that he has been ‘humbled by the experience.’ He had people contacting him about great initiatives including how reconstituted polystyrene boxes have been reused on the set of Star Wars. As the great Yoda says: “Do. Or do not. There is no try". And Luke is definitely trying. He says that the ‘war on waste’ is not a difficult war, but is an uphill battle.

Taking steps to reduce plastic associated with the kitchen

He is taking active steps to try and reduce the plastic associated with the kitchen and the wider hotel. Which includes replacing plastic bottles with refillable dispensers, plastic combs with wooden versions in the rooms, eliminating all plastic bottles and cups with glass versions and replaceable cups.

3 bx of saffron came in this bag! Now is this excessive plastic

3 bx of saffron came in this bag!

Now is this excessive plastic?! - credit

Luke Holder Instagram

Not only are his guests becoming more mindful about the unnecessary use of plastic, but his suppliers are too. Luke has seen changes in the supply of produce already saying: “When you start engaging with suppliers, you see that they are all willing and we all want to save the planet."

James Wellock, owner of Wellocks,  backed this saying; "That’s all we want is our #green #plastic #crates RETURNING - a green policy we adopted several years ago! No secondary packaging will be adopted full stop moving forward." 

Paul Ainsworth added his support, tweeting: "I can certainly vouch for @jameswellock and his brilliant green approach to delivering us produce here in Padstow. Great work @Luke__Holder in bringing this to the forefront."

A necessary evil

Whilst there have been significant reductions in the ‘plastic footprint’ at Hartnett Holder & Co, there are still certain things that cannot be substituted for. Luke calls this a ‘necessary evil’ and that he is not ‘totally against plastic’ but people need to think clearly about whether something is a necessary or unnecessary plastic.

Luke reports that the power of social media has helped get the message out there and his fellow chefs (like him) are engaging with their suppliers to try and find an alternative to the excessive use of packaging. His original tweet even resulted in leading marine conservation charities like ‘Save the Whales’ and ‘Save the Dolphins’ contacting him to offer help.

The power of social media

The impact of his tweet hasn’t gone unnoticed to Luke, “It's weird social media, isn’t it? You are shouting out into an empty room and you realise the room isn’t empty, it’s full of 90,000 people!”

He added: “It’s like joining the dots, you are a dot at first and you put a tweet out and suddenly you start joining the dots up. These dots are fed up people and this has got to stop."

Chef and owner of Salt, Paul Foster, tweeted: "I’m with you on it Chef. We send so much packaging back to suppliers at Salt to show them we don’t want/agree with it."

Whilst there is likely to be a positive change in the packaging of products from suppliers to the restaurant industry, the biggest area that requires change is from the supermarkets. Luke’s biggest frustration is the excessive use of plastic used by the supermarkets and that the ‘biggest wins’ will be when the big supermarkets stop plasticising things.

Consumer power

When asked about the Governments plans to eliminate ‘unnecessary’ plastic waste in the next 25 years, Luke remains optimistic about this and believes it is feasible, but what it will really come down to will be people and consumer power.

Encouraging people to vote with their choice will be pivotal and will make a massive different which Luke says will 'drive the market into a different direction'. Luke believes that effective change comes from individual’s decisions which are made from the love for our planet and that’s where he thinks the greatest change lies.

He says: “Those big companies will sell us what we want to buy and that is how you will make the change. That is a powerful message and the power of a million insignificant decisions never underestimate that. Power to the people!”

Use the force

With great initiatives like the reconstituted polystyrene ending up on the set of Star Wars, you can’t help thinking that Luke has become a Jedi-like figure for the ‘battle against plastic’ and that he certainly intends to use the force to spread the word about ‘what is right, what is wrong, and what needs to be done’. Ultimately, we all share a responsibility to curtail our use of plastic to help eliminate the unnecessary use of plastic in the kitchen, our homes and in the wider world too.

We want to know what you're doing to tackle plastic in your restaurant - comment below!

By Emma Harrison


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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th February 2018

"Power to the people!" - why chef Luke Holder is taking on the battle against plastic.