We will remember 2019 as the beginning of the great war with plastic and environmental anesthesia

When we look back in a few years, we will remember 2019 as the beginning of the great war. Wars with plastic, pollution, ecological unconsciousness.

My favorite health food store today sent me a parcel with an order, and in it, instead of the usual plastic packaging, I found paper, unlabeled bags with the ordered goods.

The bakery, from which I usually returned with bread, oat cookies and rolls wrapped each in its plastic bag, packed my purchases in sacks made of recycled, gray paper.

Under my block, where until recently neighbors mixed up the waste without a trace of regret, leaving dedicated containers almost empty, the cleaning company had to put larger containers for segregated waste - so many have recently arrived.

One of the largest supermarkets in my city encourages me to go shopping with my own carton instead of packing purchased food in a plastic carrier.

My favorite meatless restaurant (Okay, ONLY meatless restaurant in the area) has not recently brought me orders in foamed polystyrene containers with plastic cutlery - they were replaced by packaging made of biodegradable plastic and bamboo cutlery.

In the cafe I go to when I want to try something other than the grains I have at home, before pouring, they ask me if I brought my own cup.

Something has changed. Not only in media stories, blogger columns and Instagram friends. For the first time in years, I see that as a society we have started to understand some things.

2019 is the beginning of the great war on plastic and years of bad habits.

About the fact that we are drowning in plastic, pro-ecological organizations have been trumpeting for years. In fact, they are honoring the trumpet, because in 2016 alone we produced 300 million tons of plastic garbage . It is estimated that 170 million tons of plastic floats in the oceans, from where it goes to the stomachs of marine fauna , on the coasts of (once) paradise islands and ... on our plates, in the form of microplastics.

Consumers have long been aware that the problem exists. Many of them also undertook an uneven fight with the problem, trying to regularly segregate garbage, buy responsibly, or even live more or less in accordance with the zero-waste philosophy.

However, what are the efforts of an individual person against such a huge scale of the problem? The problem, which in addition is not mostly generated by individual consumers, but by megacorporations.

I am far from the position of a columnist for Rzeczpospolita , according to which we do not have to take care of the environment, because if it is not our fault, we can simply wash our hands. However, we must admit that when it comes to environmental pollution with plastic at the forefront, we are only small ants at the end of a large chain of industrial predators.

In 2018, GreenPeace published the #Breakfreefromplastic report - members of Break Free From Plastic carried out 239 cleaning operations, in 42 countries on 6 continents, and sorted the garbage not according to their place of origin, but ... the company responsible for their production.

And so it turned out that in 40 out of 42 countries the largest "garbage collector" was Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle trio itself accounted for as much as 14 percent. of all impurities, followed by more giants: Danone, Procter & Gamble, Mars and Colgate-Palmolive.

Of course, companies would do anything to say it's not their fault, because people should clean up after themselves - and they are quite right. However, what chance does the average person have in controlling the waste generated by the powerful production machines of these corporations? Little.

And how is it surprising that for years the issue of pollution was only worse, since we are generating more and more plastic from year to year? Ba, only between 2000 and 2018 we produced as much as 50 percent. plastic in the entire history of plastic production, starting from 1950. According to the predictions of the University of Newcastle, by 2030 we will produce another 200 million tons of plastic.

Overproduction of plastic does not make it easier for consumers to make informed choices, just like stores do not make it easier to pack every smallest assortment in a separate plastic bag. It is difficult to talk about living in the spirit of zero waste or even reducing plastic packaging, when going shopping often we simply have no choice - either food wrapped in plastic or nothing.

How to remove plastic from water?

Much has changed in recent months.

Do you remember the sharply criticized Coca-Cola action that sent empty plastic bottles to bloggers? As part of penance, the same Coca-Cola introduced recycling machines, i.e. points where the plastic bottle can be recycled.

The recycling process is also being propagated by our government (and the governments of many other countries) to encourage people to properly segregate waste and provide the necessary infrastructure for it.

Returning to the two largest garbage collectors in the world, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo: the companies have recently announced that they will withdraw from the Plastics Industry Association this year and will follow their sustainable development path, which assumes that by 2025 all bottles used by these companies will be recycled, composted or used repeatedly.

Other industries are also putting their mark to the fight against plastic. Adidas recently presented shoes made of 100 percent. from recycled materials. A growing number of supermarket chains are giving up plastic packaging and allowing you to come shopping with your own cartons. Governments forbid the production and use of disposables such as straws and cutlery, some countries already apply this ban even for diapers!

Innovative companies, also in Poland, are working on alternatives to plastic packaging and dishes - the Biotrem company from Podlasie has created a real export hit : bran dishes. Such a dish not only does not pollute the environment, but you can also eat it with a meal. Other companies are working on a replacement for plastic bags, testing the potential of foil made of onions or kombucha.

We do not know yet what to do with plastic microparticles, which - according to recent studies - we devour as many as 1769 pieces each week. However, there is a light in the tunnel: this year's Google Science Fair was won by a teenager from Ireland, who presented a promising solution for removing microgranules from water using ferrofluid and a magnet.

Anyway, other areas of our lives are also changing - governments (well, maybe outside of Poland and the Donald Trump administration) are reaching that we have less and less time to slow down catastrophic climate-induced man-made changes. KLM airlines recently encouraged to ... fly less, while France introduced an eco-tax on air flights.

Also, technology giants are doing their best to compensate for the rush of industry in recent decades - Google, Apple and Microsoft are consistently implementing and even breaking the set goals for sustainable development. Apple is working on a recovered iPhone. Microsoft and Google over 100 percent powered data centers energy from renewable sources.

The approach of companies is changing - the attitude of the consumer is changing.

It is not without reason that I cited some anecdotes at the beginning of this text. These are all changes that have only taken place in my immediate surroundings over the last few months. Like small things, but cumulative they create a picture filling the hope that something has finally moved.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the devastation we have made on our planet and are increasingly ready to stop this state of affairs. And now that the big corporations have finally stopped washing their hands, it can only be better.

This is obviously just the beginning of the war. Gentle ramps before throwing all troops onto the battlefield. But since so many changes and initiatives have taken place in just the last six months, I think we can confidently expect the snowball effect and intensification of similar activities in the near future.

And anyway ... I want to believe it very much. In the light of reports from scientists that we have only 31 years left to an irreversible climate catastrophe (before which we can drown, buried in trash), every pro-ecological initiative and even the smallest change give hope that it may not be so bad.

We will remember 2019 as the beginning of the great war with plastic and environmental anesthesia


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