In September, our board participated in the Plastic Diet organized by Opgemärkt. Now that the diet is behind us, we share our experiences in trying to reduce our plastic use.
Avoiding plastics in buying vegetables and fruit on farmers market was easy and fun, but for other food it really turned out to be a challenge. Even the paper within which our local cheese store wraps their cheese turns out to have a thin plastic sheet, Mozzarella can actually not really be replaced by curd, and even the yoghurt and curd cheese you can by in glasses at shops like Marqt or Landmarkt are often sold in non-returnable glass, so that you ask yourself if this is really a good alternative.
Probably the best discovery happened when buying snacks for our microplastics event back in June, trying to circumvent the plastic glasses and containers of our caterer: The nuts bought at the local nuts shop, sold in paper bags (well, some coating still discernible…) where so delicious that they are on our private list of favorite snacks now.
Participating in the center’s plastic diet month has been a real eye opener for me; it made me realise how much plastic I use on a weekly basis. Most products I buy from the supermarket are wrapped in plastic, which meant I had to make changes to my normal diet by avoiding certain products. This resulted in eating more fresh products and less junk food, a positive side effect of the plastic diet.
But I have also encountered certain problems while trying to avoid plastic wrappings and other plastic products. Certain products are just unavailable without plastic wrapping, and in my experience these are often the products that you cannot go without unless you are willing to live like a caveman. Products like toothpaste, soft drinks, toiletpaper, cleaning products, they all come in plastic. Another problem that occurred to me is the fact that most products wrapped in plastic are cheaper than their fresh counterparts, which makes participating in the plastic diet almost impossible for a lot of people. Hopefully big industrial companies will come up with more sustainable ways of wrapping their products in the near future, making it easier to cut down on our personal consumption of polluting plastics!
The Plastic Diet made me realize that time is an important factor in my plastic habits. I do most of my shopping at the cooperative ecological supermarket in my neighbourhood, where I can bring my own textile bags for vegetables and bread, or use the paper bags they have on hand whenever I forget to bring my own. And yet, even there, some products come wrapped in plastic. On weekend shopping trips, I had time and headspace enough to work around these, but on busy weekdays it proved quite a challenge to quickly rethink a recipe.
Time was also a factor at work. I have a fancy stainless steel coffee cup on my desk on the 13th floor, but whenever I happened to find myself at the downstairs coffee bar with colleagues after lunch, I got my shot in a paper cup lined with plastic.
At the beginning of the Plastic Diet month I started a new “plastic garbage bag” for me and my other 3 housemates. I was planning to use it the whole month to see how much plastic waste we produce as a household, but we had to throw it away after one week because it was already full. The amount of waste we produce – and how hard it is to reduce this – was the most shocking aspect of the Plastic Diet to me. A good thing: the amount of plastic waste in the last week was significantly less than in the first!
Petra van Dam
Een van de grootste ergernissen zijn de plastic deodrantflacons met plastic roller. Ik ben in het kader van de plastic challenge op zoek gegaan naar een flesje van glas, zodat ik tenminste een deel van het plastic kwijt ben. Vervolgens was het nog lastig de dop van het flesje te scheiden. Dat is uiteindelijk gelukt met een stevig mes. Ik heb daarmee een stukje van mijn plasticafval teruggebracht. Maar ik zou liever een andere oplossing van mijn deodorant verpakking zien. Om te beginnen zou het al beter zijn als het flesje veel groter was, of hervulbaar, zodat ik minder roldoppen zou verbruiken.
For more images and experiences, see our Instagram account: environmentalhumanitiesvu
Do tell us about your experiences, or share your tips in the comments below.