Today, June 5, the world celebrates the International Environment’s Day. To remember the date, we decided to do here at home (a family with five individuals: two adults, two young men and a dog) an experiment to see how much we save on (or politely refuse) on using plastic bags offered in supermarket chains, apas six years of conscious restrictions of the use of this material. The results were amazing and highly motivating!
By Antonio Carlos Teixeira, editor of the blog TerraGaia
Our family lives in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since 2008 we use the reusable bags in the supermarket’s weekly shopping. This time, we chose not to know which utilization and the impact we are leaving to lead to put into practice some of the five “Rs” (rethink, refuse, reduce…). Normally our weekly shop occupy six reusable bags. That day, the supermarket’s employee put the products in 33 plastic bags. Probably the the supermarket’s employee spend half if she chose not to use two plastic bags to accommodate a particular product group. We decided not to interfere in its action just to know how the the supermarket’s employee work during the time she spends on aid to customers in the packaging of your purchases.
Well: either the the supermarket’s employee (and many others of various supermarket chains throughout Brazil) does not receive any guidance in terms of using common sense to allocate a certain number of plastic bags for the transport of products purchased by customers or (which may be even worse!) this professionals who work in packaging products are encouraged by their “leaders” to effectively spend plastic bags in custody (temporarily) of the products bought by customers that practice may be a reflection of a warped justification of a common Brazilian expression “is better to have than miss…”
We also include in the list of possibilities feelings such as fear of being questioned by the client (or the “head”) why not to use two (or more) plastic bags for packing a product group; or attitudes such as contempt, because not bother with the unnecessary expenditure of this material and the impacts that could result in urban and environmental means. In the first case, one might even include a certain amount of altruism and the supermarket or functionary to allocate more than a plastic bag in the packaging of a product group, action would help support the weight with more efficiency in purchases, thus avoiding, risks of fission material and accidental exposure of customer purchases. An unnecessary action, of course, if both parties (supermarket and customers) to encourage the use of reusable bags made of more durable material, thus reducing the risk of exposing suddenly purchases.
Rethink, refuse, reduce: 10,000 bags in six years
In a single account, and if we take into consideration the number of 33 plastic bags which, in theory, would be used for each weekly trip to the supermarket, we can say that in six years saved (or rethink, refuse, reduce…):
. 132 bags per month (four weeks)
. 1,584 per year (48 weeks)
. 10,164 in six years and five months (308 weeks)
That’s right: 10 billion plastic bags consumed not in nearly six years and six months. If we make a projection for the period of ten years of non-use (2007-2017), will be rejected 15,840 plastic bags!
If we divide the number of plastic bags by the number of individuals living in our house (five), we have:
. 6.6 plastic bags for each individual week
. 26.4 per month
. 316.8 per year
. 2,032.8 in six years and five months
This means that more thant two thousand plastic bags refused by each individual of our family, between January 2007 and May 2014. In January 2017 will be not consumed 3,168 plastic bags!
Rethink, refuse, reduce: to make a difference in the game of global sustainability
In Brazil, out of 5,570 counties, few cities are holding active programs to reduce the use of plastic bags. Unfortunately capitals like Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and many others still had not actually even programs and projects implemented by the population in partnership with the public authorities and companies and industries. Of the few cities that practice environmental consciousness of moderate use of plastic bags, I can highlight the city of Xanxerê, within the state of Santa Catarina. There, the program reduced use of plastic bags began in 2009, from an associated action that municipal executive (mayor), store owners and supermarkets (entrepreneurship) and locals (citizens).
Outside several measures have been implemented to discourage the use of such material, considered the dirtiest type of plastic. In the European Union, parliament wants to reduce plastic bag use by 50% until 2017 and 80% in 2019. On average, European uses about 200 plastic bags per year. In 2010, eight million plastic bags were disposed of improperly, degrading and polluting the European environment.
Some countries of the European continent has taken quite coercive measures to reduce the use of bags for their citizens. Ireland established the rate of use of plastic bag (Plax Tax) and managed to reduce by 92% its utilization in just one year; Italy adopted a more rigid measures and has banned the distribution of bags in supermarkets. Similar actions are being made in Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
In Africa, countries like Rwanda, Tanzania, Somalia and South Africa have created laws banning the sale, manufacture, distribution and use of this material, banning plastic bags of their respective societies. Although federal laws on the subject cities of countries like the United States (Washington, San Francisco and Oakland), China (Beijing and Shanghai), Canada (Toronto), Argentina (Buenos Aires) and India (New Delhi) has no own legislation to reduce the consumption of plastic bags. Already countries like Japan and Chile have adopted measures to encourage environmental awareness and its citizens not to use bags.
In the year of the FIFA World Cup, not even to the claim that the, global society, we are playing very well in relation to practices of conscious consumption. But I believe we have achieved a lot in this regard in the last twenty years. And we’ll keep hoping that twenty years from now are in a better position to mark a big goal and make diferenaa in the game of global sustainability.
Rethink, refuse, reduce…