The fight against single-use plastic
A few years ago I was waiting to pay in the grocery shop, when a young man in front of me at the cash desk spend around 20 euros on plastic: plastic spoons, knives and forks, a few packages all containing 10 pieces.. Plastic plates, plastic bowls, plastic cups.. And on top of that, he took all these plastic utensils home, in guess what, a new plastic shopping bag. As you can read in our previous article on plastic, being concerned about our overuse of single-use plastic is pretty legitimate.
I have to admit, plastic can be extremely useful. It has given us as humans a lot of prosperity, for example in medicines or in water-resistant clothing (super nice on rainy days!). But, the cheap price of oil and production has also made it popular as a single-use product. For example, to host a barbecue with plastic utensils, plates and cups, like the guy I met in the supermarket.
In this article, I want to show you what you can do to limit your single-use plastic. But let’s start with having a look at what is already done by governments.
What is already being done?
Fortunately, many people and parliaments worldwide agree that single-use plastic should be limited. In a 2019 UN report on single-use plastics, it was found that from all 192 reviewed countries, 127 are applying legislation to regulate plastic bags . This includes, for example, manufacturing restrictions such as a minimum thickness of the plastic or financial incentives. In the Netherlands, where we live, free plastic bags are banned since 2016 . At the supermarket you normally pay 25 cents. Does this work? I guess so, Dutch people are famous for being stingy :).
One country that took its plastic bans to extremes is Kenya. Due to its plastic issues, including plastic found in cow stomachs, the government took action. In 2017, a ban was set on both manufacturing, importing and even selling of plastic bags. Breaking this law can cost you a fine of more than 36.000 euros or even a jail sentence. In practice, the height of the most fines given out are between 450 and 1360 euros . But in a lower-middle-income country like Kenya, this is a lot of money .
What can you do?
It is hopeful to see that some countries take radical action. But the future must show how effective these measurements are. As we say, every little change is a step in the right direction. Therefore, we want to make you aware of the single-use plastic you use and how to reduce this.
First of all, it starts with growing awareness. Plastic has become so integrated into our lives, that we sometimes forget to see it. If you are already recycling your plastic, great job! If not, start doing it. It means that you collect your plastic waste in one spot, and it could be useful to open up that full bin of plastic waste to see where it comes from. In my case, the most plastic waste I have comes from wraps on groceries.
A next step is the will the change. The many discussions I had with single-use addictions were about the why. Why use single-use? In many cases, people admit being lazy. It is all about effort and how you want to allocate this. An example where you see this often is with take-away food. Many restaurants are willing to put the food in your own container, but you must remember to bring it.
A third step is to talk about it. Tell your friends and family about your will to change and explain why. In my experience, this has only led to good discussions. And the best part is that you maybe get some company as well!
The last step: don’t be too hard on yourself. Change needs time. If you are into the single-use cutlery and cups because your parties are simply too big to provide enough (which sounds like an awesome party!), consider using products made from other materials. These days, alternatives like bamboo or corn produced cups and plates are on the market in many countries. It is a step in the right direction and shows your incentive to change.
Either way, there is much to say about plastic. Want to know more on this topic? Let us know and we’ll make sure to write more articles! Below you will find some basic tips on reducing plastic when shopping. Want to know more? Keep on following us, by clicking the follow buttons below.
–Bring a small, foldable, reusable bag with you every day. Since I take my groceries quite often on unexpected moments, I usually put a small linen bag in my backpack. It barely takes up any space and weighs almost nothing.
-Get your fresh products close to the moment you will consume them and buy them in shops where plastic wrapping is not the standard. Wrapping of fruit and veggies is very useful to keep it fresh and reduce food waste. However, if you know you’ll eat the cucumber, capsicum or eggplant within a few days, the plastic wrapping becomes unnecessary.
-This one is very easy if your country has clean tap water: bring a bottle with you that you can fill with water, coffee, tea or anything else. It saves a lot of plastic.. and money!