We are in the midst of Plastic Free July, and what is more, we are in the midst of another waste crisis. Time to talk about both.
Plastic Free July
First of all, the good news. We are in plastic free July, and however every month should be plastic free, in July this topic makes it to the headlines.
Some more good news is that I’ve seen throughout the last year plastic free initiatives rising, booming and going mainstream. And this on all four R’s: recycling, reducing, re-using and responsible use.
There are more and more countries banning single-used plastics, including the plastic bag. There are more and more countries promoting recycling, even here in Australia I see more and more plastic recycle initiatives popping up among supermarket chains.
Yes, bring back your plastic, and let the producer takes it responsibility!
I see as well more awareness in terms of reusable water bottles – and even free water filling stations – and reusable coffee cups. Some people go further, taking their own containers and cutlery to the take-away, and straws are getting gradually replaced by bamboo, paper or steel ones or no straw at all.
At least we can tell we are taking the first steps. There’s a long way ahead of us, but isn’t reaching a destination all about getting started and changing ‘en route’?
Waste Piling Until July
Unfortunately, what happened the last months has increased the global waste pile. The pandemic brought single use mouth masks, gloves, and sterile clothes with it. As well as single use wipes that clog the sewage system, because they contain plastic particles, which aren’t degradable at all.
Moreover, we got tempered to take our own containers, cups and bottles to be refilled, to not infect the shop or restaurant staff. Dining in became dining out, but these take-away habits created another pile of plastic waste. Single use containers, and cutlery, wrapped in single use plastic bags.
Moreover, our trash is still burned or buried, while the recyclables largely still are exported to South East Asian countries since China has shut its borders for international waste. Rather than having been called to action ourselves, we blamed China for shutting its borders and forced other countries to take our waste.
However, if we cannot deal properly with our waste, why would other countries be able to do so?
Especially if all American, European and Australian countries are shipping their so-called recyclables to a handful of countries instead. Add the fact that we aren’t recycling well and hence most of it is just ready to be burned or buried over there, and we just replaced the waste problem, rather than solving it.
Waste Resolving July
So, if we don’t want 2020 to hit waste pile records, we better get our act together and apply any of these four strategies:
It all starts with reducing potential items that will go to waste.
This isn’t only packaging, but as well any other object you’ll only use once or few times. Think before you buy.
Moreover, this is a responsibility of governments, companies and supermarkets. Once plastic is produced and used, it is high likely it will end up on the global waste pile. Only 9% percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. Moreover, every recycling cycle reduces the quality of plastic, hence making the plastic ending up on the waste pile nonetheless.
In addition, during this process chemicals are used, which we rather don’t; and all plastic which isn’t processed or deposited properly leaves micro plastics behind in our water, and soil, and eventually via the food chain in our own bodies as well.
Reducing plastic waste starts with reducing plastic production.
Governments should make more laws to allow other materials than plastic to be our first choice. Businesses should be forced to do better, no bandages, no greenwashing, but profound better. Supermarkets should make wiser choices when it comes to the products they sell.
And eventually the consumer should think before buying, buy the product with the least packaging, buy products that last or are multifunctional. And with changing our consumption behaviour, eventually supermarkets will change their offer. And if they change their offer, industries have to change as well. Demand and offer drive the market, right? This works from both sides, so don’t let you fool into buying a product that ‘you need’ or ‘is sustainable’ if it actually isn’t.
Waste is a used resource which we no longer use.
This is a semantic construction of words, but it has an interesting truth in it. What if we change the words? Waste is a resource which person x no longer uses for purpose y. It means that maybe someone else can use it – like second hand shops – or it can serve another purpose – such as an empty yoghurt pot that becomes a container. On larger scale various companies are already applying this mindset. Empty coke cans becoming purses, while old plastic bags become durable shopping bags. Old clothes becoming the resource for patch work, while a left-over of cement is turned into a flower pot.
By considering waste as a resource, using our creativity and innovation, we can prevent waste from piling up, while enriching ourselves. Serving planet, profit and people.
If we can’t reduce, nor re-use our resources, we might eventually bring them to a recycling collecting point. As mentioned before some supermarkets allow now to bring back their plastics, both soft and hard, while many countries have recycling collecting points.
It all comes to separating waste properly, and bring it to where it belongs. In some cases, you can even make money of it, while in other cases you can give it to the recyclers who can make money of it, which happens in various countries by the less wealthy people of society, however their job has a huge impact to all of us.
Eventually, we all know the above-mentioned strategies, it is a matter of taking our responsibility.
If we don’t recycle decently, the recyclables are useless and end up on the waste pile nonetheless. If our countries and governments don’t take up responsibility and keep shipping our waste to other countries, our ‘waste debate’ is vain and hypocrite, saving their face, not the planet. If companies don’t take responsibility by continuing producing plastic as a product or as a packaging material, their sustainability management is vain and hypocrite, going for green washing instead of greening the planet.
We are all together in this waste debate, we all buy and consume products, we all have the choice to go for a greener variant or at least hold our governments and companies accountable for the waste they are producing.
I wrote before on how companies dumped south east Asian markets with the one-use portions of their products, providing not only one portion of soap but as well one portion of waste at a time. The same brands often claim how sustainable they are in some countries, while providing this kind of dump in other countries. Responsible waste management concerns every single step and country in the production process and market.
So, back to Plastic Free July. Walking a new path is difficult, full of uncertainties and unknown side tracks. It is easy to be distracted by a big event such as the pandemic, taking us back to the road we knew.
However, let this setback not set us back from reaching our plastic free goal.
We’ve made a lot of progress, even alone with the increased awareness and legislation. We started walking, it might be a long and unknown track, but let’s stay on track nonetheless. We all have the capacity to reduce or increase the waste pile, by our consuming behaviour at first, and by our influence on production and legislation, because we are the consumer and the voter. If we don’t take this anymore, eventually companies and legislators will have to follow us on this unknown path. And that’s how it goes with everything.
This article is part of the series of Hope in Times of Corona. Read
- How this too shall pass
- how this times of self-isolation should not mean loneliness,
- how you can contribute to this battle,
- how gratitude lights up the dark,
- how united we will stand strong
- on the most util strategy in awake of a crisis
- how I got blown of my feet as well, but caught by many caring hands,
- how being calm can get us through the storm.
- about Love in Times of Corona
- how to discover your own talents
- why we need stories to hold on to
- how you can be creative and innovative.
- how to spend your mot valuable assets in times of Corona.
- how to listen to the sound of silence.
- How breath taking Corona really is.
- discover the other freedoms Corona has shown us,
- about the new-born freedom Corona gave us.
- about another way to exceed your personal bubble.
- about the position of nature in this entire story
- about nature bouncing back
- about the crucial choice between resilience and resistance
- about the game to play
- about star gazing in dark times
- About looking for Meaning
- About how Music Connects
- about what Easter and Corona have in Common
- About the Shark and the Turtle
- About the Irony of Distance
- Why to Hold on
- Fake News
- about The Big Unknown we live at
- about Feeling Alive
- About turning obstacles into opportunities
- about what the Birthday of my nephew learned me about life
- About where we should go from here?
- About coping with incertitude
- About the Great War and the Great Pandemic, and we should not forget
- about history’s most important message, echoed by corona
- How one country could rule them all
- About how to prevent the next Green Pandemic
- about how we are experiencing a new episode of our history books
- about when the poppy flowers
- about what’s in a number
- masks off, how a friend in need is a friend indeed
- What’s Next. after we flattened the curve?
- how will our personal story look like in a post-corona world?
- why we should never let a good crisis go too waste.
- How Spring can happen in Autumn
- How to unlock the lockdown
- Why education matters
- How we can give meaning to the meaningless deaths. (rethink health care)
- The remarkable marketability of health, or not?
- the remarkable rewards of health
- The queeste for global health care
- Health Heroes
- Pains and Gains
- Solidarity 3.0
- Work-Life Balance
- Home sweet home
- Real Connections
- Leadership 3.0
- gratitude 3.0
- Respect 3.0
- Humanity 3.0
- Change Management
- Economic Catharsis
- To consume or not to consume?
- Travel the world, travel your heart
- Barrels of Life
- People, no Number Management
- Back to the Office?
- Those jobs …
- Economic Growth or Green Growth
- Global trade, global fate
- Act local, think global
- A changed climate for Climate Change
- Love is in the Air
- From Fatamorgana to Oasis
- From Covid-19 to Forest Fire
- 5 Shades of Fossil Fuels
- Water, divide and unite
- Almighty Ocean
Or wait until tomorrow, when I’ll shine another light on yet another positive corner of this dark time.