A few weeks ago, I had the chance to take part in a Zero Waste event in Hong Kong. The special guests included Bea Johnson (Zero Waste Lifestyle), Claire Sancelot (The Hive Bulk foods), Craig Leeson (film director of APlastic Ocean), Hannah Chung (HK Zero Waste Challenge) and Bobsy Gaia (founder of Mana! Fast Slow Food).
Topics ranged from everyday life usage of plastic to food consumption. This conference made me, and I’m sure every other participant, reflect on the daily things that we do and that seem so banal but actually cause big problems.
Many of us, when we throw away rubbish and the truck comes and picks it up, it just feels like it’s gone forever and no longer exists. But even if the rubbish is not under your responsibility anymore, you just can’t ignore the after-effects. Rubbish ends up mostly in oceans and this affects the ecosystem, creating a global warming effect and even causing the death and extinction of wild marine life. Plastic has become one of the main causes of death for fish and birds, for example, because they mistake it for food.
Now, you might think that only marine life is affected by plastic but, I’m sorry to say, you, as a human being, are also concerned. If you eat fish, you have most likely been exposed to plastic toxins. If a fish eats a piece of plastic, the toxins are absorbed into its body and passed through the food chain. The point is not instinctively to go vegan but to actually control the colossal volume of discarded items.
What about recycling? Even if we separate recyclable waste from normal rubbish, only less than 10% of the plastic we throw away is recycled. It’s not because recycling doesn’t work, but because not all types of plastic can be recycled. It’s a sad, unfortunate truth. What we throw away ends up in landfills and these landfills don’t disappear from planet earth. So what we create on earth, is consumed on earth and stays on earth.
What is important is to ask yourself before you consume if you really need that plastic item. There are so many small things that you can do and change in order to help the environment. Taking a cotton bag to the grocery store, instead of using a single-use plastic bag. Using metal or glass straws, instead of plastic ones. Bringing a reusable cup to the coffee shop . And the list can go on and on for hours. (I can make a whole post dedicated to alternatives if you want).
I’m not criticising or telling anyone how to live their life. Yes, we made a lot of progress by creating things that simplify life but with that comes a high cost to the environment. If you want to make changes, then go for it. If you don’t want to, then don’t. This subject is close to my heart and I just want to raise awareness about this issue. Creating a better future and a better place for us and the next generations to live in is important.
I’m not saying either that I’m perfect. Yes, I still do use plastic (even though I considerably reduced my consumption of plastic items) and I have to admit that I don’t live a total green lifestyle. But the most important thing is to be doing a little rather than nothing at all, especially if it’s simple changes such as boycotting plastic straws. I believe that the power is in the hand of the consumers because when you buy something, you actually create demand to produce more of the product.