A life without plastics seems impossible, since plastics are the main component in almost every single everyday item; from our computers and mobile phones, to food containers and other packaging.
Single-use plastics, however, generally have a functional life of less than a week, and are not designed to be repaired or refurbished. Single-use plastics include packaging, bags, bottles, straws, containers, cups, cutlery, and other items. Bioplastics are not exempted from the single-use plastics’ designation, as, in general, biodegradation occurs only under specific conditions; for example: certain temperatures, and the presence of micro-organisms.
Experience is the best teacher
Our previous article noted that the ban on single- use plastics will come into force from 2021. As Guyana prepares for this monumentous intervention regarding the waste management dilemma, lessons from previous waste management experiences come to mind. In enacting the Styrofoam Ban 2015 Regulations, it was noted that while the majority of consumers and businesses alike were willing to comply, the lack of alternatives — and more-so locally sourced ones — posed a challenge. It is anticipated that similar challenges can be faced in enacting the ban on single-use plastics, and those would have wider-reaching implications.
Therefore, the Agency is taking a proactive approach to ensuring all stakeholders are adequately informed, and that the alternatives are appropriate, economical and easily accessible. Many alternatives to plastics exist; from cloth, to paper, seaweed, and other natural fibres such as bagasse. We need business and other budding entrepreneurs, or even someone who may have brilliant ideas, to start exploring alternatives to single-use plastics, especially using local products.
What can you give up?
• Plastic shopping bags and packaging. Here you have the opportunity to select the perfect specimen, but you can skip the nasty plastic packaging and use your own sustainable tote bags. Alternatively, you can easily make your own totes from any light fabric (e.g. an old t-shirt) or simply pack your produce in an old cardboard box. Pack your empty produce bags and a few reusable shopping bags together in a single reusable bag; you’ll always be ready for your next shopping trip!
• Water bottles. Sometimes buying a bottle is just unavoidable. If you do buy one, try to buy only clear PET bottles, as they are the most readily recyclable.
• Take out containers. Every second, 140,000 items of food packaging are disposed of.
• Plastic cups, plates, forks & spoons. There are a variety of options currently available locally.
• Drinking straws. There are now a variety of reusable options, with glass, stainless steel, bamboo and reed straws being the most popular.
• Clothes hangers. These are uniform in look, and won’t break or bend under the pressure of heavy clothes. These items can also be made locally with lesser used species of wood.
We hope that you will start to think differently about single-use plastics, and how you can gradually eliminate them from your lives. Do continue to follow our series of articles on single-use plastics, to learn about what is happening locally as well as globally.
Choose to celebrate your mothers in a sophisticated way by choosing reusable over disposable. Make it a celebration free of single-use plastics.
Happy Mother’s Day!
You can share your ideas and questions by sending letters to: “Our Earth, Our Environment”, C/O ECEA Programme, Environmental Protection Agency, Ganges Street, Sophia, GEORGETOWN, or email us at: [email protected] or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.