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September 20, 2019 4 min read

At the moment everything is about plastics. Wherever we look. Even the federal government has taken care of this in an advertising campaign that is spread all over Berlin. It says, that we will soon get less for our money. Less plastic. And while I walk past at least one of these billboards every day, I ask myself more and more often who is actually responsible for all the plastic in our world and why it is so incredibly difficult to do without it.

At the same moment I wonder if this is really true. Is there currently no way to avoid it or is it perhaps due to our infinite comfort to take the shorter and flatter route even if we know that it is much more dangerous than the hilly long route that would lead us safely to our destination?

Since this week it has been clear that there will also be legal changes.

The ban on disposable plastics is a done deal. But only in two years. And only for those articles for which there are better alternatives such as crockery, drinking straws, cotton swabs, balloon holders and cocktail stirrers. It is currently assumed that these articles currently make up 70% of the plastic floating in the oceans. In Europe the share is 43%. But what about the other 30%? Are they no longer dangerous?

I’m very comfortable myself sometimes. I always go to the same supermarket. Not because I particularly like it. On the contrary. But it’s close and I can do my shopping on the way home.

Once there, I follow a strict shopping routine. Almost always the same food ends up in my shopping basket. Lots of fruit and vegetables, some cheese, sometimes bread, sometimes things I have to replace.

And again, and again I end up unpacking products from plastic packaging at home. There would be some of the food I buy unpacked in almost every supermarket. Oranges and tomatoes, for example. And although I pay very close attention to choosing the sustainable option for many things, I still often buy the packaged products.

But why is that and does it really need a law that we pay more attention to our consumption?

We often assume that all people should have a similar attitude to us and that the renunciation of plastic should therefore be quite simple. However, we often forget that there are social differences in our society which often lead to different patterns of thinking and behavior.

If I have to worry about being able to buy only what my child really needs, the thought of plastic-free shopping may not be the first.

Rather, many people focus on the best price-performance ratio. And since demand determines supply, plastic packaging can be described as a vicious circle. The same applies to cheap meat and eggs from battery cages. So here it is not necessarily a matter of education, but clearly of choice. Legal regulations for companies are therefore indispensable to create a real change.

But I can’t justify my consumption with that. But why do I behave like this? It would probably be most realistic to cite laziness and repression as reasons. But is it really that simple? – Yes. I think it’s so simple. Paired with habit. And the only way to get rid of this behavior is to constantly remember myself that there are other ways and to create new habits step by step.

The government regulations and bans have the advantage that fewer products are brought into the market and also to sharpen the awareness of consumers who have not yet paid sufficient attention to their behavior for other reasons.

However, government regulation should (can) only be a small start. Many products will continue to exist. And here it´s maybe up to us to keep the market as small as possible and thus encourage suppliers to rethink. Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a difference, such as replacing cotton pads with washable pads to remove make-up or at least buying the sustainable version made of organic cotton.  Sounds simple? It is.

Nobody has to wait 2 years to change his behavior. Cotton swabs are also available in paper. Most of the time they even stand next to those made of plastic. You can also find 100% compostable paper plates. Colorful glossy prints are often a sign that they have been treated with plastic. And if we are honest, you can only see them if the plates are still next to the buffet.

In addition to the new bans, the Parliament has also agreed on a binding recycling quota. 90% of all disposable plastic bottles are to be recycled in the EU by 2025. The still permitted disposable plastic articles are to become significantly more expensive and thus demand is to be reduced.

Some supermarkets have recently started to offer more organic plastic bags. These consist partly of corn and quickly decompose into microplastic particles under light and oxygen. However, these are not necessarily less problematic, since it is microplastic in particular that is particularly harmful to the environment. So it is not just a question of exchanging some products, but of really doing without them until real alternatives have been found. That is why bio-plastic bags are also on the list of articles to be banned from 2021.

In any case, I will try to pay more attention to my habits in the future and I will (hopefully) use less products with plastic packaging as I do today.

And what would a new year be without good intentions? This is even better than any diet. Even if we also weight in kilograms. And the best thing is, you don’t have to start from 0 if you had a day things didn’t work out so well.

Emerald Berlin is also supporting a really nice project about plastic recycling. Growing seeds of Africa. Check them out if you want to learn more about their great work.

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