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Staff training how-to for plastic free cafes

Now that you’ve switched away from single-use plastic, let’s talk about getting your staff on board and helping them create new habits. Not only will this ensure the success of your switch, they can educate your customers and even save you money.

We find that many staff are already aware of the plastic problem. But like all of us, old habits can get in the way. Automatically putting a straw (or two) in every drink, putting the food scraps in the landfill instead of the new compost bin etc – these habits take a bit of time and effort to break. And then there are your customers who will ask questions - it’s a good idea to ensure your team is equipped to answer them.

Below we cover the main steps. We recommend holding a staff training session where you can go through these. Make it fun, play games and have rewards for those who do well. We have also created a Plastic Free Staff Guide, you can print this off and give to your staff, or place it somewhere handy for them to refer to.

If you’re a Plastic Free SA member, we would be happy to come along to your training session and do this with you (free of charge)!

Here is what we recommend:

1. Inform and educate your team

Let the team know that you are making the change away from single-use plastic and why. Some common reasons include:

  • To build a sustainable business.

  • Because our customers appreciate it.

  • To show that we care about our environment.

Discuss your commitment to ditching single-use plastic and ask your staff what they think as well. Inform your employees on your product changes - go through the new items, explain how they are to be used and why you have chosen them.

2. Get them in good habits (and working for you)

Encourage your staff to talk to your customers about the changes and reduce the number of disposable items they are giving out – this helps educate your customers and develops good habits which can make a difference to your bottom line.

Simple, effective ideas are to ask your staff to prompt your customers by asking:

“Do you need a lid?” or "Do you need a straw?” Some customers may not need these, and this reduces your packaging. It also encourages customers to make better choices.

“Did you bring your own bag / coffee cup today?” It’s better to phrase the question this way rather than asking, “would you like a bag” as it reminds the customer that you’d like them to BYO reusables. If they’ve forgotten, remind them of the discount you offer or suggest they dine in or borrow a mug/bag from you (if you offer this). Get your regulars into good habits.

3. Equip your staff to answer questions

Equip your team so they’re able to answer questions from the public about your changes. Ensure staff understand your reason for doing it, what products you're now using, and how they're better.

You'll find most people will be on board with you, however there's still a lack of knowledge in the community and people are still learning – your staff can help educate your customers to understand.

You can find a list of common questions and answers in our Plastic Free Staff Guide.

4. Support staff to make the change

  1. Encourage staff participation - offer rewards for doing well or have an ‘environmental staff member of the month' award.

  2. Lead by example and be consistent. By showing that this is the expected, normal behaviour, you are more likely to make lasting changes for your business.

  3. Ask for feedback and work with staff to overcome any challenges.

  4. Use signage and other prompts to help them (download some great signage here).


It may take some getting used to, but once your staff have adopted new habits and your workplace culture has shifted, you’ll never look back. Many of your staff and customers will carry the changes into their lives – think of the positive flow on effect you can have on the world!


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