We see the discussion around plastic everywhere – the news, in politics and heartbreaking pictures on social media. But it’s a lot of talking but less and less individual action. Recently, the European Commission proposed a directive to reduce single-use plastic, now widely discussed throughout Europe, and appears to be a first step in the right direction. The directive targets the plastic products that are ‘most often found on Europe’s beaches’, which includes single-use straws, cups and plastic cutlery. The goal is to reduce 55% of all plastic to be recycled by 2030. But even though 55% is a good start, who is responsible for the rest?
Shouldn’t the discussion also focus on individual responsibility, rather than just pointing fingers at companies and producers meanwhile millions of individuals use and throw away single-use plastic multiple times every day? Just because single-use plastic in form of plastic cutlery or portable coffee cups exist in our everyday life, doesn’t mean we have actually use it. Of course, that requires effort but I mean, we are living in a consumer based economy after all, right?
No amount of regulatory pressure, generated by the EU will have the same impact as the pressure generated by the consumers. When we change our behavior, every business that uses plastic straws, containers and other single-use items will be forced to rethink their products and innovate more rapidly.
In the long run this would lead to a different consuming behavior and exercise enormous pressure on companies. We are the Consumers and we have to see ourselves as a driving-force for change. Our infantilization will most likely lead to defiance under which the environment has to suffer.
But how can we get involved? No doubt, climate change is an uncomfortable subject. It forces us to overthink our behavior, limit our never-ending hunger for new products and causes us to think before we buy.
Basically, all the things we should be doing anyway when consuming but which got lost somewhere along the way of thoughtless mass-consumption and a throw-away culture.
When it comes to single-use plastic, it is mostly the comfort that keeps us from choosing the sustainable alternative. It’s uncomfortable to ask the waiter in a bar not to give us a plastic straw for a mojito. Or to take our morning coffee in a sustainable self-brought cup instead of a throw-away plastic one. But shouldn’t the ecological damage outweigh the little discomfort we’re having in an everyday moment? I mean, around 40 pieces of litter can be found in every km² of water of the mediterranean sea.
We got so used to the buy-throw cycle that we feel that a little disruption in our optimized comfort consumption leads to a huge limitation in our life standard. Does the comfort of having a drink with a friend come from the plastic straw in the cocktail? Does the pleasure of ordering a coffee in a coffee shop come from the cup that the coffee is served in?
I wouldn’t say so, and that’s why it’s high time to abandon single-use plastics in our everyday life. It doesn’t limit our comfort in the slightest and has positive benefits for our health and the environment. The EU’s proposed directive is a good start. But even if the directive is implemented, 55% by 2030 is not enough to protect and preserve our planet.
It is on us to make our decisions and limit environmental pollution in every aspect of our lives. Let’s start where it hurts the least: the dispensable single-use plastic items.