Breaking up with plastic

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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SAY NO TO PLASTIC WASTE: Rubbish dump at Tafaigata.

SAY NO TO PLASTIC WASTE: Rubbish dump at Tafaigata.

February is a month synonymous with love. 

The kind that gets the romantic in you all excited at the prospect of sweet gestures from your other half on Valentine’s Day.

But this Valentine’s Day, environmentalists want you to flip the script, in a “self-love” kind of way, by ending your addiction to a toxic co-dependent relationship that we are all guilty of having - with plastic waste.

That’s right, plastics.  According to environmentalists, plastics are hurting us and those that we love and we have all these great choices to avoid plastics.

In a global release this month, the United Nations Environment is encouraging people, through a media campaign, to rethink their relationship with buying plastic in an effort to reduce plastic wastes in the Pacific.

Tiffany Straza, of the U.N. Environment Pacific sub-region Office, is confident that if we got ourselves into a relationship with plastic then we can get ourselves out of it.

“The video is a global release,” she said. “It’s reminding us that we have chosen to be in this relationship with plastic. We’ve chosen to use these materials that are offered to us and sometimes we spend quite a bit of money on it.”

Adding his support in helping you break up with plastic, Dr. Frank Griffin, Hazardous Waste Management Adviser at S.P.R.E.P, says weaning ourselves off our co-dependency with plastics start with the small stuff.

“When it comes to activities like ‘fa’alavelaves’, you’ll find that all the food that is gifted to you is packaged in styrofoam and plastic so it’s that kind of mentality that we need to think about changing. 

“When we do education and awareness on trying to change our behavior, we also need to provide alternatives.

“When you look at things like preparing to take home bags made of coconut leaves. You can make a big coconut bag and then put out taro leaves at the base and put all your food on it and hand it to people to take their food home in it.

“It’s mind over matter,” Dr. Griffin says. 

“It’s not just about the plastic, it’s about our attitude towards it and what we do with the plastics when it’s not usable anymore and that’s when the issue comes in, if we are able to avoid it in the first place, than we do have to deal with it in the second place.”

Like some relationship experts, Ms. Straza points out perhaps it’s time to live the single independent lifestyle to find your power again which means starting with things we can control.

“The easiest thing to start with is to ask for drinks without straws,” said Ms. Straza. “To take a reusable bag to the grocery store and many people are already doing this. There are lovely bags that you can buy in Samoa or they are given out sometimes, you just have to remember to take them instead of sending your kids to the shop. 

“Keep that bag with you so that you always have that habit of always having an alternative to plastic. 

“Sometimes it’s being brave enough to ask for something different when you’re handed a piece of plastic or when everyone else around you is getting a coffee with a styrofoam cup with a plastic lid. You have to be brave enough to be a little different and ask the server to give you something else or use your own cup.”

There are restaurants and cafes like Krush, Nourish Café, and All things Sweet that will support you in your journey of breaking up with plastic by providing you with alternatives to help reduce plastic wastes.

“I have my own containers and I’ve been really happy, there are several restaurants in town that are happy to let me use my own bowls,” said Ms. Straza. 

“I’ll call ahead and tell them and they’ll fill up my bowls directly from their cooking pots into my containers and they are happy to because it saves them money and I can come home with something that’s healthy for me, healthy for my environment. It’s clean. I know that I’m the only one who’s touched those containers.”

“Krush has reusable options. They also sell reusable dishes like the coconut dishes. There are a couple of honey businesses where you can buy honey from them and then they let you refill the jars. Mailelani will refill your coconut oil bottle and will even take back their bottles.”

As we become more aware of the harmful long-term effects of plastics in our lives and in our environments, environmentalists like Ms. Straza and Dr. Griffin say that we can make informed decisions about who and what we will get into relationships with.

“It’s much easier to stop it before it starts,” said Ms. Straza. “Let’s not buy our waste and then have this problem with waste management. Let’s just say no to waste to begin with.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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