Waste not

It’s really disheartening when you see what global efforts are underway to deal with climate change and waste (well, perhaps with the exception of certain notable individuals with funny hairdos), and to see so little being done here.

Not so long ago, we were at the forefront of changing smoking laws, charging for plastic bags in shops and managing wildlife environments. And I really do mean not so long ago.  It was in the late 1990s that smoking was banned in the workplace and confined to designated areas in restaurants.  And in May 2003, legislation was introduced to decrease plastic bag litter by charging for bags.

Since then, however, things have gone downhill.  We hear daily about the Mpumalanga Highveldt being one of the worst polluted places in the world.  The dumping of building rubble and debris has become a daily occurrence in Joburg and I’m sure elsewhere, raw sewage is pumped in massive volumes into our rivers and dams, with efforts to address this embroiled in bureaucracy, and waste recycling programmes to address landfill issues are largely not working.

And what of private sector efforts?  Well, Pick n Pay have launched schemes designed to reduce plastic packaging waste with their reusable fresh produce bags (launched in May, but only in stores in the Western Cape) and their nude produce walls (launched in 13 stores at the beginning of this month).

Shoprite launched an initiative in October last year to encourage repeat use of 100% recycled bags, with a whole 50c off your shopping. While in April, Spar launched their new paper shopping bags, although the debates still rage around how environmentally friendly paper bags are vs their plastic counterparts.  Woolworths on the other hand, have around 15 plastic bags free stores at the moment, with 100% by next year.   But not enough is said or done around reducing plastic packaging in the near future.
But with a government struggling to get basic infrastructure back into operation, thousands of people hungry and homeless, and a society that has become largely lawless, one can see that priorities are a challenge and perhaps why there’s a lack of focus on these issues.  Nevertheless, we simply cannot sit by and wait for laws to change.
We can each be responsible for what we do in our own homes and in our daily lives.  We can change what and how we buy, we can decide to insist on plastic-free options, perhaps not in everything, but where we can.

In our home, we are trying to do what we can, but since there’s plastic in teabags and kitchen towel,  meaning even they are not biodegradable, it’s a daily challenge.  Toothpaste, household cleaners, toilet paper, face- and baby-wipes, earbuds, micro cleaning cloths… the list is endless.  And worse still is that most people are largely unaware of the damage these goods are doing.

We only buy milk and yogurt in glass now, we opt to buy eggs and use our own containers.  We have largely ditched detergents in the washing machine,  along with oven cleaners and other cleaning products.  We are now looking at 100% biodegradable toilet paper and will no longer purchase kitchen paper that contains plastic.
We carry our own straws, have moved to glass storage rather than plastic ‘Tupperware’ and only shop with our own reusable shopping bags… we even have those ones that fold into tiny things that we can keep in a handbag for those unexpected shopping moments!
Sure, it takes a bit more effort, but not really that much in the whole scheme of things… and it makes us feel that we’re doing whatever we can to reduce our negative impact.
Rant over.

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