Guests in the Fort: Plastic-Free Culture Around the Globe

Citizen of the Fort Travel Zero Waste

recycling is not enough
Citizens of Fort Negrita! Today you are in for a treat as there are five visitors in the Fort today. Five bloggers from Plastic-Free Tuesday, a blog that skips plastic on Tuesdays to help reduce the plastic footprint. I really wanted to share experiences about their home countries to show how similar (and different!) Green culture is in other countries.

They all seem to have to put up the same fight just like I do while grocery shopping and eating out, and they all have a continuous passion that will not stop! Check out the entries below, and visit PlasticFreeTuesday.com. If you are interested, take the Tuesday challenge and go plastic-free on Tuesdays!

recycling is not enough
Name and where do you live?
My name is Annemieke. Last March I moved from my home country the Netherlands to Beijing, China. 

 
Why did you start Waste-Free/Plastic-Free life?
A few years ago I saw a TED video in which Beth Terry introduced her plastic-free lifestyle. This video has been in the back of my mind ever since. In the years that followed I occasionally heard or read about plastic in the news. After reading yet another piece of plastic news, I decided in April 2013 to do something about the global plastic problem. This is when I started my Dutch weblog plasticminimalism.blogspot.nl, where I document my journey toward a plastic-free life. This blog is still running. In March this year I decided it was time to create more awareness about the adverse impact of plastic on our societies. This resulted in the launch of Plastic-Free Tuesday. Soon Marlies and Gerda joined the PFT team. Our team is now even bigger. Together we want to inspire people to reduce their plastic footprint, one day at a time.
Hardest item to get Plastic-Free? What's your alternative?

Coconut oil. I like to use this kind of oil for cooking because of its taste and health benefits. In Beijing it is possible to buy imported (from the USA) plastic jars in one of the health stores. Otherwise, glass jars with local coconut oil (from Hainan in China) are sold online, but these are delivered in plastic packaging. This is one of the few things I have not found a way around yet.
How common is Plastic-Free in your area? Do non-Plastic-Free people have good recycling practices?

Plastic-Free is not at all common in my area. You easily end up with 5 to 10 plastic bags when shopping produce at the local wet market. In fact, when we just moved here, we had to remind the same salesperson multiple times in one purchase to not use a plastic bag. Now that we have been here a while, everyone at the market and in other local shops know that we refuse plastic. Our refusal of plastic bags and plastic packaging generates many conversations every day. Almost always, the salesperson explains to other customers in the shop or in the line why we don’t want to have a bag because of environmental reasons. Everyone here thinks it makes sense. “In China we are wasting so much”. There is huge potential for reducing the amount of plastic used in China. We are currently exploring ways to bring Plastic-Free Tuesday to Beijing. Some people have already offered to support us by hanging posters or cooperating in some kind of scheme involving reusable produce bags. It’s exciting!
What are some policies enforced for recycling in the country/area you reside?
Although there are containers with different labels (reusable/non-reusable) in our community, no-one ever separates their waste into those different categories. What happens is that all waste disappears in the big bins. These are then emptied regularly by men that ride on motorized tricycles. I think they bring the garbage to a collection point where people manually sort and recycle it whenever appropriate. In addition, on almost every street corner you can find a big truck where a bunch of people sort cardboard, textile, plastic, and other things. After sorting, they sell it to a recycling or waste plant. So there seems to be a lot of recycling, but it seems to rely on an informal system rather than an organized system such as I am familiar with in for example The Netherlands.
Zero Waste/Plastic-Free must haves?
I never leave the house without one or more shopping bags and a number of produce bags. I usually plan my meals before I go grocery shopping. If I need peanut butter, meat, or milk I bring my own containers or glass jars.

recycling is not enough
Name and where do you live?

Emily Boeglin, I live in Pawling, New York.
Why did you start Waste-Free/Plastic-Free life?

I started a more sustainable and waste-free lifestyle while I was away at school last year. I attend a university in Pennsylvania, and being around thousands of students on campus and in  dining halls every day, my eyes were really opened to how much trash we all produce. Nature has always been such a huge part of my heart, and I realized that there are some serious waste issues going on. After doing a lot of research, I was astounded at how much plastic, toxins, and re-usable products we end up throwing away that harm our planet so extremely. So, I took an initiative to start making more conscious decisions, and I turned those decisions to actions. I recycle everything that can possibly be recycled, and I do my very best to avoid purchasing or throwing away anything that I would not want to find in  my water or backyard.
Hardest item to get Plastic-Free?  What's your alternative?

 Hardest item to get plastic free...ALL PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS! I'm talking make-up, body wash, razors, deodorant, the list goes on! All of these things are encased in plastic, and that is a scary thing! Seeing as how beauty and personal hygiene products are probably the most commonly purchased items in everyone's home.
How common is Plastic-Free in your area? Do non-Plastic Free people have good recycling practices?

I am sad to say that plastic-free lifestyles are not common in any area I've been in. I have met a small handful of people dedicated to making more conscious, eco-friendly decisions in their daily life. Many people I have personally talked to have no issue being wasteful, simply because it is easier as well as the fact that it won't affect them. I hope that by having more organizations like PFT, people will learn that it is worth it. "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."(Greek proverb)
What are some policies enforced for recycling in the country/area you reside? 

There are no policies enforced in my area, but the opportunity to go plastic- free is certainly encouraged and available if chosen. There are farmers markets every weekend in my town, giving consumers an organic and healthier option to plastic wrapped foods at the local chain grocery stores. There are also recycle and clothes donation bins in the parking lots of every major shopping center and food store. Also, as for my neighborhood, the garbage company came around a few years ago and gave everyone big blue recycle bins to put out along with our garbage.
Zero waste/plastic free must haves?
Must haves? 
Glass glass glass! Glass containers, glass straws, glass bottles, glass whenever possible! Even though it is not ideal, when broken down into the Earth glass is FAR less damaging than plastic. Also, wax paper is a great investment to wrap up food and to transport it!
recycling is not enough
Name and where do you live?

My name is Hana, I am 29 and I live in Bratislava, Slovakia, which is a tiny but beautiful country right in the geographic center of Europe.

Why did you start Waste-Free/Plastic-Free life?

I have to say I am not completely plastic free, at least not yet. But I don´t want to come to a beach and lie among plastic bags, I don`t want Indian villages to practically stand on the piles of plastic waste. I find recycling not effective enough, so trying to use less plastic feels like a more effective option. Plus Nature is the best =) Wood, glass, linen, etc, it feels different to touch it, smell it, look at it.
By trying to use less plastic I might inspire more people to do so and we could change the attitude towards over consumption. To give an example, I do not think it is normal, that in Slovakia we have tens of kinds of mineral water, but we would import water in plastic bottles from Italy just because it is a trademark, not even mentioning the use of gas for transporting them.
Hardest item to get Plastic-Free? What's your alternative?

A lot of food and cosmetics is packed in plastic because of hygiene. It is difficult for me to find baby spinach leaves not packed in a plastic box. Another item is yoghurt, I don`t have a thermometer and time to prepare my own and yoghurt in glass jars is more expensive. Then there is toilet paper and such, that is almost impossible to buy not wrapped in plastic.
How common is Plastic-Free in your area? Do non-Plastic Free people have good recycling practices?

As far as I know, it is not very common for people to strive for plastic free life in Slovakia, some people recycle, but although most of the cities and villages have recycling bins separated for plastic waste, glass and paper, it is not uncommon that after people throw the garbage into separated bins, the people who collect the garbage throw it again all together.
What are some policies enforced for recycling in the country/area you reside?
Because Slovakia is a part of European Union, we have laws that oblige villages and cities to have recycling bins for plastic, paper and glass waste available on a daily basis and bins for other bigger waste or electronic waste available once in a few months. But the bins available are only used to 30% of their potential. According to statistics, Slovakia has one of the smallest waste production per person per year in the EU (approximately 300kg on average, note that some people in the rural areas are composting or burning the rubbish on their own), but very poor recycling efficiency and engagement, one of the worst in Europe (only about 7% of waste is recycled). On the other hand, our neighbour Austria recycles around 70% of their waste. 
Zero Waste/Plastic-Free must haves?
I often forget to bring them along for shopping, but they are glass jars and glass food containers, linen bags, paper bags and a lot of concentration and strong will in the beginning =).

recycling is not enough
Name and where do you live?
Gerda, living in Melbourne.

Why did you start Waste-Free/Plastic-Free life?

I like the idea of small scale accessible projects to make the planet a prettier place.
Hardest item to get Plastic-Free? What's your alternative?
For most disposable products, there is either an alternative, depending on time and budget. I found it is more the daily permanent plastic that occurs in abundance and seems such as the fridge, the toilet, headphones, etc.. 

How common is Plastic-Free in your area? Do non-Plastic Free people have good recycling practices?

Although the prime-minister isn’t a particular friend of nature, Melbourne area is a different story and home for hippies and environmentalists. Though, most people assume that an extra plastic bag is no problem as it will reincarnate as a something useful thanks to the nations recycling system. This is a pretty nasty paradox: the plastic will be downcycled and the process brings its own problems too. The good intention is absolute there though! 

What are some policies enforced for recycling in the country/area you reside?
Recycling is a hot thing. We had about 4 different containers in our household. One of them said recycling – but plastic rubbish was rather confusing part. Plastic bottles would go in there, plastic bags not. I don’t really get the rules until today. In reality the motivation for recycling seems more a legal thing than actual care for environment. My housemate, who drives a car to the local supermarket and big fan of plastic bags - is an absolute recycling hero.

Zero Waste/Plastic-Free must haves?
Plastic is not only ecologically evil, it’s pretty ugly too. I replace therefor plastic bags with homemade cotton bags. 

recycling is not enough
Name and where do you live?
Hi! Im Marlies from Groningen in The Netherlands. Its a student town of approx. 200.000 inhabitants. 5th biggest city of Netherlands.
Why did you start Waste-Free/Plastic-Free life?

I got into plastic-free living mostly for the reason that I started to get uncomfortable with leaving such a pile of tangible toxic waste behind for many years to come and likely future generations.  Especially the kind of unnecessary plastic that we only use for one time, for some seconds or minutes Without a thought often. It just doesn't make sense to me! It is good to realise what happens to the things we throw out, and to take some proper responsibility for them, even if we don't see it anymore when we do throw it. When my friend started with Plastic-Free Tuesday I was on board immediately to expand my plastic free habits. My first plastic-free Tuesday is here.
Hardest item to get Plastic-Free? What's your alternative?

Being a vegetarian who likes to eat tofu now and again, I find tofu hard to find! Impossible actually thus far. :-(. The same goes for milk in the Netherlands, it's not available in glass. And much Dutch cheese technically has a very thin layer of plastic to protect it in the maturing process , so formally it's a plastic nono .. For cheese I still make some allowances though..
How common is Plastic-Free in your area? Do non-Plastic free people have good recycling practices?

In The Netherlands plastic-free living is not very common, but I get very good reactions to Plastic-Free Tuesday generally,  or my plastic-free efforts. So awareness and concerns are definitely growing, if people do not so much act upon it yet. Many people take their own bags to the supermarket,  but at the vegetable section they would still put their fruit in a plastic bag which is unnecessary.. Most supermarkets have banned flimsy plastic bags at the checkout though and charge for bigger bags.
What are some policies enforced for recycling in the country/area you reside?
In terms of recycling policies,  in my city Groningen people are not required to separate plastics, the municipality decided on a factory that does the separation after collection is done, for all kinds of waste.  People do recycle paper and glass themselves by bringing it to special bins in their area, eg. near supermarkets. This is quite common, and it can be frowned upon if you don't. For food waste, different municipalities have different policies. Some give inhabitants separate bins which are collected 1 time per week. I don't know if Groningen also separates that out from the waste stream, at least there is no system for separating it out at home sadly. I would like to look into a way to do myself.
Zero Waste/Plastic-Free must haves?

Reusable cup for to go drinks! I have my Mason jar for this. Love it. Also, fabric bags and various containers to shop at the market or stores. Two/three simple things which safe a lot of plastics! Otherwise,  it's more about having the resolve and keen eye to refuse an look out for alternatives!


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