Friday, 23 April 2021

Marina cafe owners aim to become plastic-free

Marina cafe owners aim to become plastic-free

THE owners of a Wargrave café are doing their bit to help save the planet.

Gemma Naughton and Lisa Anacora, who own Cwtch at Willow Marina, say the business is almost plastic-free and they discourage single-use containers.

The couple, who live in Tokers Green, opened the café a year ago but had to close in March due to the coronavirus lockdown and only
re-opened on August 24.

Miss Naughton, 37, said: “We are both really passionate about the planet and climate change.

“We adopted most of our policies straight away but it has become more difficult with covid.

“‘Disposable’ has become a lot more popular again, which really worries us.

“People want to wear disposable masks and gloves and we are trying to do all we can to keep people safe but we want to have reusable items where possible.

“We use gloves that are biodegradable rather than plastic. They are single-use but will degrade at landfill.

“We still don’t sell anything at all that is in plastic, so you can’t even buy a bottle of water from us, and we’ve managed to find cans for people who want to have something to take away.”

The café has milk delivered in glass bottles instead of plastic co tainerts, even though this costs about three times what other cafés pay, and the straws are biodegradable as they are made from corn.

The boxes, bags and cutlery they give to takeaway customers are made from a plant-based compostable material called Vegware.

Miss Naughton said: “We might charge more than the average café, but the customer can feel good about the source.

“The people of Wargrave are really supportive and they’ve all got on board. We’ve not had any negative comments.

“Our next project will be to build a compost area where we can compost all our own stuff to make ourselves even more sustainable.

“We are always looking to improve and at the moment we are going through lots of suppliers to see who can provide what we want without plastic.

“What would be great is if more suppliers were on board. Milk is a prime example — we get our milk from a tiny farm in Devon because there is nobody locally that does wholesale reusable bottles.”

Miss Naughton was a detective for 13 years and moved to the area from her native Wales after meeting Miss Anacora, 38, who owns Val Wyatt Marine, in Brighton.

The couple’s passion for the environment was renewed after a trip to Bali early last year, when they spent a month volunteering on conservation and sustainability projects.

Miss Naughton said: “We stayed in a place that had no running water and we helped build a recycling centre.

“We taught the fishermen how to fish sustainably and we thought about what we could do in our own lives to be as sustainable as possible.” Cwtch — the Welsh word for a hug or cuddle — re-opened briefly in early July but closed again due to issues with coronavirus.

Customers said they did not enjoy ordering via a smartphone and the owners found they were too busy to monitor social distancing in the café.

It took the women more than a month to put measures in place to enable the business to open again.

The café operates table service only and the majority of tables are now outdoors and spaced apart as well as being cleaned between every customer.

Miss Naughton said: “When we re-opened, covid was still a new thing and we had no idea how busy we were going to be.

“We had as many safety procedures in place as possible but we were finding it difficult to social distance everyone.

“We decided to close and take time to rearrange the inside and switch to table service. Every 30 minutes we clean all the hard surfaces and door handles.

“All the staff wear reusable face masks. It’s not the law but we want our customers to feel as safe as possible.

“We are very fortunate that we are loved by our local community and we hope people will continue to support us through the winter months, which will be a tougher time.”

The café is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 10am to 4pm, and serves breakfast and brunch all day.

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