Americans love plastic. Grocery stores use it, restaurants use it, and the sound of a plastic wrapper has become all too familiar. In fact, according to the New York Times, the average American throws away about 10 single-use plastic bags per week. Globally, that number rises by approximately 1 trillion each year. And while we may deem all this plastic necessary, a new Dutch supermarket is proving otherwise.
With the help of A Plastic Planet, Ekoplaza – a supermarket chain in Amsterdam, Netherlands – recently introduced “the world’s first plastic-free aisle.” Here, items are packaged in compostable or recyclable materials with absolutely no plastic. Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, quotes that “[there] is absolutely no logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic.” Products such as meats, yogurts, and chocolates are found in the aisle, along with about 700 other plastic-free items. Chief executive of Ekoplaza, Erik Does, adds that “it’s something [they’ve] worked on for years”, while the idea of banning all plastic gains global support. With this in mind, Ekoplaza plans to expand its plastic free aisle to all 74 stores by the end of 2018.
So, what does this say about the global use of plastic? Is it really possible to ban (or make more recyclable) plastic? Some countries and cities say yes. By introducing a fee on plastic bags, Ireland’s annual use dropped from an estimated 328 bags per person to 14 per person by 2014. Similarly, England introduced a 5p bag charge in 2015 and Kenya banned the use of plastic bags in 2017.
More locally, The New York Times reports that “California is the only state to have imposed a comprehensive solution to the plastic bag problem” in the United States. On a smaller scale, cities across the nation such as Austin, Boston, and Chicago have also banned/imposed fees on plastic bags.
Through social media, the “zero-waste” movement has gained growing support, especially among health-food advocates. Lifestyle bloggers such as Kathryn Kellogg and other millennials promote this lifestyle showing their amount of non-recyclable trash in a single mason jar. Although going completely zero-waste poses a serious commitment and drastic lifestyle change, striving to produce as little trash as possible could have positive effects beyond comprehension.
At the rate we’re going now, the ocean will hold more plastic than fish by 2050. The Washington Post reports that “worldwide use of plastic has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years” and is expected to keep going up. Of that, around one-third of all plastics, or 8 million tons, ends up in our oceans. With the growing population and the increase of plastic usage combined, our world must step up and take action.
As Sutherland states, “[one] man’s plastic food wrapper is another man’s problem.” And as this issue becomes increasingly worse, it’s time for it to be everyone’s problem. Now, items in Ekoplaza proudly wear a “Plastic Free Mark” label in hopes that one day, our planet can wear one too.