Projekt Nachhaltigkeit: Herausforderung 2 – Living without Plastic
For the month of January I am going to try not to use any single use plastics. I worry a lot about plastic pollution in the oceans. The amount of plastic stored on our planet is truly horrible. I mostly encounter single use plastics when shopping for groceries as most vegetables are packed in plastic. I am going to try my best to only buy unpackaged groceries.
When I think about this challenge now, I cannot imagine having many difficulties because I already try my best to avoid plastics. However, I believe that there is a lot of plastic that I am using without being really aware of it and I will definitely realize this during the challenge.
The first thing I realized was that I was already doing pretty good in avoiding plastic because I usually drink tap water and carry a reusable water bottle. This means I never use any plastic bottles. I also kept using my bamboo coffee cup for when I wanted to get coffee to go.
Going grocery shopping, however, was quite the challenge. Some of the fruits and vegetables I could just buy without putting them in plastic bags. The plastic bags EDEKA uses for their vegetables are supposedly made from 80% recyclable material. This, however, means that 20% is still plastic that will stay on our planet forever.
Walking through the supermarket I realized how much food is actually packaged in plastic. A huge amount of vegetables was not available without plastic packaging and even on the unpacked fruits and veggies I often found plastic stickers. Veggies packed in plastic have a longer shelf life, so I can understand why supermarkets prefer plastic packaging over having to throw away the foods after only a few days.
I still managed to do my shopping without using any plastic. I bought fruits and veggies without any plastic on them (tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges) and instead of getting hummus in a plastic container I bought chickpeas in a glass jar and made my own hummus (recipe here: https://www.springlane.de/magazin/rezeptideen/hummus-selber-machen-grundrezept/).
Sadly, I could not find any rice, cornflakes or soy yoghurt that was not packed in plastic or had a plastic lid, so I had to give up on that for that week’s shopping.
The real challenge, however, was using less plastic packaged cosmetics. That means that instead of using shampoo, conditioner and shower gel packed in plastic I switched to solid shampoo bars.
They work like soap bars that you put in a small net. They foam up quite a lot and can be used just like normal shampoo. I actually really liked the solid shampoo and did not miss “normal” shampoo at all. Instead of shower gel I just used soap, which I also found to be a pretty simple switch.
Plastic is horrible for our oceans and overall environment. But in daily life it is quite hard to avoid plastic. The switches I described in this blog entry are a very good start but even if you decide to stop using plastic, in daily life you will probably still find yourself in a lot of situations in which you will not be able to avoid it. Some foods are just not available without plastic and there are fields that could just not do without plastic, like hospitals. I take with me from this challenge that it’s not necessary to do everything 100% right all the time because that is just not possible.
Of course, we can and should still try to do the best we can to avoid plastic whenever possible. Just don’t take a plastic bag the next time you’re in the supermarket or just stop drinking water out of plastic bottles. Hamburg’s tap water is perfectly safe to drink.
As a final thought, I believe what really needs to change is industry. The use of sustainable plastic alternatives has to be increased drastically, whether that is by laws, government incentives or pressure from consumers.
I hope that by reading this article you have become a little more aware of all the plastic that is being used and ways to avoid it.
(text and photos: Teresa F. (S2))