Some plastic impressions from the city that never sleeps – part 1
One of the reasons why you heard so little of me was my trip to New York. Going there was on my personal list of things to do before I die. As I had planned this trip a while in advance, I couldn’t foresee I would be on a no-plastic-diet during my stay. So I almost naturally looked at things in quite a different way.
The big question:
Was it easier or harder to stick to my plan? Surprisingly it turned out a lot easier to avoid plastic in the U.S. than I thought it would be. I don’t know if this had to do with the fact that I just stayed in New York State and New Jersey or if it’s easier in the States in general, but the thing is: As there is a much bigger product range on the other side of the Atlantic, you automatically find a lot more alternatives to plastic. On the flip side you do have a lot more ridiculously packaged things as well and it is a lot harder to refuse plastic bags. It’s hard to imagine – Thanks to years and years of watching American movies and series I always had the image of paper shopping bags that come with no handle in my mind. Those times seem to be over though. Nowadays it’s all about plastic bags.
Those nasty little monsters are almost forced upon you when you go to ordinary supermarkets and corner shops. Needless to say they are free. Sometimes the shop assistants were so quick at putting my stuff in a plastic bag that I had to make them out the stuff from the plastic bag again, which made me feel a bit rude as I know that they consider it a nice, polite thing to do. So after a while I knew I had to tell them straight away. That way I avoided awkward moments in the queue. I also noticed that upmarket delis and supermarkets often offered a choice between plastic and recycling paper bags, so that helped as well. In the end I saw a lot of people who left “ordinary” (so no upmarket, hipster/trendy delis) supermarkets and delis carrying four, five or even six plastic bags. That reminded me a bit of the UK where I witnessed the same whenever I went shopping. On top of that the bags hardly ever seem to get re-used as the material is so crappy and thin. My conclusion after observing the situation in NYC and Germany: You have to make people pay for plastic bags!
The problem my friend is blowing in the wind
As happy as I was about finding things I had so dearly missed in Germany (Recycling toilet paper in recycling paper bags – I did find it in the end! Chips in recycling paper bags! Cookies in recycling paper bags! Organic supermarket chains like Whole Food offering loose rice, nuts, dried fruits etc.! ), as unhappy I got when I noticed how much plastic waste there was everywhere. Unfortunately a lot of the plastic bags ended up somewhere on the streets, in people’s front yards or in trees. Eventually a lot of it ends up in the Sea that is surrounding this wonderful city. Sad!
Lesson learned: More plastic, more alternatives to plastic. That means: My personal situation got a bit easier, but in a more normal situation where I wouldn’t have taken the subway just to find that one specialized shop that sold something without plastic I would have probably produced the same amount of waste – if not more.
More news about my trip will follow next week on Thursday – from now on the weekly Ingloriousplastics day!