Have you seen those depressive photos of animals swimming in the garbage? Or deformed by plastic packages? I have seen them many times, every time feeling helpless. At the same time, it always felt like somebody else’s fault. Somebody far, far away… just like those suffering animals.
Recently I realized that my feelings are not fully right. I will not save the world, but I can be the change in the world I want to see. And what do I want to see? Less garbage, especially plastics. I think so far I was not doing enough in terms of the waste product, so let’s change it!
The best way for me to start something new is to start a challenge. I think plastics are the worst thing, so I decided to focus on reducing plastic waste to the minimum. Preferably to zero.
At the start of planning the challenge, I was pretty optimistic but realized that I need to prepare some exceptions for me not to go crazy. The exception is for the cosmetics, as I’m pretty sensitive in this regards. I want to focus on plastic packages, not things that are multiusage, like plastic containers. I’ll be also using things I bought before the challenge. My goal is to find as many alternatives to use afterward and to increase my knowledge about the topic.
I shared the idea with my fiancé. Just after our discussion, he went shopping. One of the first words that he said after coming back was: „You will starve! There is plastic everywhere”. And somehow he decided to join me on this crazy journey!
Let’s see, if we starve!
The First Day
I was full of optimism.
I don’t eat meat except for fish, so I figured I’ll just eat more veggies. It didn’t sound like a problem for me. Indeed, most of the things like aubergines, summer squash are easy to find unpacked. Tomatoes? If I take one or two it will be still easy not to pack it in plastic.
My plan: I’ll focus on salads and vegetable stews.
The closest shop to me is Lidl and I tend to buy there. I grabbed a couple of aubergines, summer squash, and one big tomato. The problem started when I begin looking for a salad. I’m not very picky, I accepted that I can forget about rocket and lamb’s lettuce this month. But finding a regular salad without plastic bag turned out to be impossible!
So apparently no salad today.
I grabbed a couple of things that I eat rarely, deciding that I’ll just improvise. And eat guacamole with bread.
But actually, I need to buy bread somewhere else, because apparently paper package without plastic window is a rare occurrence here…. damn.
I mean this makes sense from a design perspective – it’s much easier for the cashier to recognize the product when there is the transparent plastic window. I figured I can just try buying bread from the bakery – they don’t need this function and it should be cheaper to make the paper bag without fancy cutouts.
But my optimism started to fade.
Not only salad was out, but also stew. After reaching the shelves with tomato concentrate I realized that metal tubes with it have a plastic cap. Other ones were packed in Tetra Pak and I was not fully sure if it’s plastic or not. I instantly started missing Polish way or packing it – it tends to be in cans or jars.
Fortunately, there were some cans with cut tomatoes and it needed to suffice. I decided to pick all the things I can find, transform them into lasagna (from things I had bought before the challenge) and think what to do with my life.
After I ate lasagna I started thinking.
And I figured I have a problem. But I can find a solution.
I’m a regular person with a regular person’s habits. I lack the knowledge and experience of how to survive without plastic, BUT there are people that KNOW. I just need to find them and learn their ways.
Thankfully there is INTERNET. And obviously you can find people there with all sorts of experience.
After a short research, I learned a lot of things. First of all – not using plastic is just the beginning. There are people that are much more advanced in avoiding all the garbage! They are easy to find on Facebook in Zero Waste groups. I immediately joined the ones from Poland and Germany.
Secondly, cartons for milk or juices are mostly paper, but not only. And this „non-only” make it not a very green material. There are some plastic and aluminum involved, that are hugging the paper closely enough that it’s pretty difficult to separate them. Because of that it’s not getting reused or recycled very often. Anyway, any packages of this kind are out.
Third, there are some shops that allows shopping much differently than what I was used to. They sell without packages! I was not sure how it looks like, but it was definitely an important place to check.
So there is some hope!