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‘We don’t need to buy new stuff’: The £55 reusable party kit reducing plastic waste in Aberdeenshire

Anna Mckechnie with her zero waste party kit
Anna McKechnie is passionate about reducing the number of single-use items which end up in landfill. Picture by Wullie Marr.

From plastic cups and birthday banners to balloons and gift wrap, there’s nothing like a kids’ party to generate a mountain of plastic waste.

Fed up seeing this all going into landfill, one Aberdeenshire mum has taken matters into her own hands and created a variety of reusable kits to enable people to throw easy zero-waste parties.

Anna McKechnie with her zero waste party mermaid kit
Anna pictured here with some of her reuseable party kit items. Picture by Wullie Marr

Each kit contains everything needed for a party; from practical items like plates and cutlery to fun extras like decorations and party bags, available to rent out and return.

“There is a staggering amount of waste produced by parties, but it doesn’t need to be that way,” said Anna McKechnie, owner of Lily & Bee party hire.

Why are zero-waste party kits needed?

The idea came to Anna when she was attending a child’s birthday party with her daughter at a local play centre.

“At the end, the staff came along and literally swiped everything off the tables into bin bags – there was a lot of stuff,” Anna said, who lives in Kemnay in Aberdeenshire.

“It hit me that I’d not considered just how much waste parties produce before, almost all of which is non-recyclable.

“From foil decorations, balloons and glittery gift wrap to food-soiled, plastic-coated cups and plates… and it’s not cheap!”

Disposable plastic cups in landfill
Disposable plastic cups from parties get used once but languish in landfill for hundreds of years. Picture Shutterstock.

Then lockdown happened, and parties were cancelled.

However being at home for months on end gave Anna more time to devote to the tiny seed of an idea which had taken root in her brain.

“I was interested in developing something which would reduce how much single-use stuff ends up in the bin,” Anna said.

Lily & Bee reuaeable zero waste party supplies in action
Some of Anna’s reuseable party equipment in use at a birthday party. Supplied by Anna McKechnie

“I came across the Party Kit Network on Facebook where people – mostly mums – from all over the country were sharing their ideas and pictures of vibrant, eco-friendly party kits they had put together and were hiring out,” Anna said.

“It looked fun and I really liked the ethos behind it.”

The idea is twofold; not only does it save hundreds of bits of plastic from ending up in landfill after one use, but it’s also cheaper than the alternative.

“People are very used to just going to stores and buying all the throw-away items,” Anna said.

“When I tell them they can hire the same things AND save money AND save waste, they’re surprised – we don’t need to buy new stuff.”

What do you get in a party kit?

Anna has built up her zero-waste party collection to include a range of different themed kits.

Among the most popular are mermaid and dinosaur kits which contain all the decorations and party food table serving items needed to host 20 people.

These typically include:

  • A selection of handmade garlands, bunting and banners.
  • Table centrepieces and decorative props.
  • Plates/cup/bowls sets per guest.
  • Cake stand and themed food cutters.
  • Serving platters, bowls, buckets, dip trays.
  • Drinks jugs.
  • Quality table cover, placemats, runner.

Other kits include unicorn and outer space themes, baby shower kits and a tropical theme kit suitable for teens and adults.

“These are all high quality, reusable items,” said Anna, “and the whole kit is rented out for just £55.

“I also supply themeless kits in pastels or rainbow colours which are perfect for parties with no specific theme, and these are just £35 to hire.

“We have a big party hire using our safari-themed party animals kit going out this weekend.  This is for 40 guests so this hire alone will prevent around 160 plastic party items from heading straight to landfill.”

‘I’m not an eco warrior’

Anna is passionate about making eco-friendly choices in her everyday life, and minimising waste is just one example.

“After having my second baby in 2020, I began to experience a real sense of climate anxiety,” she said.

“What are we leaving our children to deal with in the near future?

“The climate emergency is happening now, and in just decades, it will be them who will be dealing with the consequences.”

Anna McKechnice with her one of her reuseable party kits
Anna has had support from lots of other parents who have also felt guilty about the need for single-use items at their children’s birthday parties. Picture by Wullie Marr

Single-use items like kids’ party plastic cups and plates are significant contributors to the climate emergency.

Not only do they require fossil fuels for production but the items themselves are designed to last and can easily be around for 450 years in landfill or polluting seas and rivers.

“In truth I’m not an eco-warrior,” Anna said.

“I still have many changes that I need to make in my own life and it was only in the past couple of years, since having my own children, that I really started switching on to the need to make those changes and make them now.

Stoneyhill landfill site near Peterhead.
Stoneyhill Landfill Site near Peterhead, which is where landfill waste from homes in Aberdeenshire goes. The picture gives a scale of how many recyclables are being sent to landfill.

Anna isn’t the only one trying to instigate significant change.

On June 1 this year the Scottish Government is banning the sale and use of a number of common single-use plastic items.

This includes straws, stirrers and polystyrene cups and takeaway cartons in an attempt to limit the volume of plastics created for just one use.

Anna is May’s entry to the P&J’s Eco Hero competition.

For more information, and to enter, click here.

You can read about some of our previous Eco Heroes here: