I want to start a European citizens initiative to forbid some types of plastic. Specifically single use, disposable plastic. Plastic bags for example, they should just be forbidden by law. I just arrived in Amsterdam and I wanted to buy snack at the airport. I am shocked that everything in the small store here was packed in plastic. Just look at this, this is insane! It’s the height of being spoiled when you can’t even chew your own apple, but you need it readily chopped in plastic. Luckily I found an apple and a banana that I could eat zero waste. Yes I can eat normal apples that are protected by peel, because I’m not an old person without teeth.
Last year in September I was out sailing with my mum and my brother. That’s when I decided that this few people being “zero waste heroes” isn’t going to be enough, we need to forbid plastic. My mum had made some sandwiches for lunch for us to take with us. I arrived at her house before we went down to the harbour, and she asked me to pack the sandwiches. I usually do not use plastic bags at all, living zero waste on most days. Not all days but always when I have the energy to go the extra mile to avoid plastic. This time I was stupid, I just took the first thing I found in mum’s kitchen and I packed the sandwiches in a little plastic bag.
Out on the sea, I had just finished my sandwich when the wind started blowing more. Before I could even blink the plastic bag was in the sea. “Noo! Liam, can you turn around the boat?” I asked my brother who was handling the sails. “It’s too windy to be able to precisely aim at that plastic bag…”. For a few seconds I think about jumping into the water but it’s September. The water in the Baltic sea was really cold. So I let the plastic bag go.
Anyone who knows me can be sure that I would do anything to not litter in the sea. But despite this, I ended up throwing a plastic bag in the sea! I’m not generally very dumb or stupid, but I’m not wise enough to be able to handle the responsibility of plastic. Very few people are. Plastic is dangerous, to animal and human health. Plastic is made from fossil fuels but it’s not really a climate issue, it’s a litter issue. A issue of the health of ecosystems and our own healths. There are laws that try to make sure we don’t drive too fast and that we can’t buy drugs. Why are we allowed to pollute with plastic liter without any limit?
I can’t be given responsibility of handling such a material because I cannot guarantee I won’t do harm with it, no matter how much I try. What about people who do not even try? They surely litter even more. The only real solution to this earths plastic pollution problem is to forbid single use plastics, the kind of plastics that end up in nature. Plastic is durable, so we could still use plastic to make things that are meant to last. Just an example, I think pipes and toilet seats from plastic are fine, I’m hardly going to drop my toilet seat in the ocean. But all that packaging waste. All plastic bottles. Plastic straws. You find them at any beach. We need to stop it, make sure we don’t find that litter on the beach in the future. We need to make sure that the plastic most likely to end up in nature is forbidden by law.
It might take some time before we are politically at a place where it can happen, but the sooner we start working towards it the better. We have alternatives to plastic already. There is constantly news about engineers coming up with new sustainable materials, and once we forbid plastic these materials will be so demanded that they can be produced cheaply at scale.
I love the zero waste ideology and I try to follow it myself. What I don’t like is that the view is too individualistic. People are cheered for figuring out how to avoid plastic. The harder challenges you overcome, the more you are cheered. But why is it meant to be difficult to avoid plastic? We need everyone to become more zero waste. Instead of a few determined persons going to specialty stores to buy food because the normal supermarkets are just too full of plastic, we should change the supermarkets. Change all of society, not just ourself. Changing yourself is a great place to start. The best place to start, but we can take it further. You shouldn’t have to struggle and be a hero to avoid plastic, you should be able to live a normal easy life where you don’t need to constantly panic over where to get food that isn’t insanely wrapped in plastic.
If you are a European citizen interested in joining the committee organising a citizens initiative to forbid single use plastics, please comment on the blog and I’ll be in touch! The more the better 🙂