Interview Meret Nehe – Now it’s on us to catch up!
BioApply: What started as a self-experiment in 2014 is now an international community: Meret, your fb group #BuyNoPlastic4aMonth# counts over 1’100 followers from all over the world, did you expect such a huge interest for your mission? Where do you think does it come from?
Meret: I started this initiative last year in October quite spontaneously with a friend and we would have never imagined it to take of like that. The huge interest by individuals as well as the media shows me that this is a topic that matters to many people in our society. The plastic problem is quite different to other sustainability issues we are facing today in that it happens right in front of our eyes. We see plastic everywhere when we go shopping, we see the garbage lying on the streets or floating in the river or sea, and we carry it out of our houses in garbage bags every week. Also, all of us have seen the crazy increase in packaging happening in the past few years. And I have never met someone who actually liked this trend. So, it seems that people got fed up with all the waste we create and feel like they want to change it for the better.
BioApply: Your first plastic-free month dates almost a year ago, what are the main products of daily use where you still manage to avoid buying plastic and where did you consternate?
Meret: On the long term it is quite difficult to keep your shopping bag plastic-free all the time. It takes a lot of extra time and thinking and I have a lot of respect for the people who do this (like e.g. Lauren Singer from NYC who lives waste-free). Nevertheless, I keep on avoiding plastic in a lot of ways. For example, I buy my milk in a glass jar. I have also come to known about menstrual cups and I would never want to change back to tampons or sanitary pads. And, very simple but efficient: I never take plastic bags in shops but rather bring my own bag.
However, for some products, it is much more challenging: it is for example nearly impossible to find toilet paper without plastic packaging. I have also noticed that I am buying more plastic when I am travelling because sometimes I just feel like buying a fresh sandwich or cold juice on the way. Good for my body but bad for my mood: sweets are nearly almost packaged in plastic or foil. The only solution: ICE CREAM!
BioApply: For which products do you see the biggest potential in everybody’s daily life, to easily reduce one’s consumption of plastic?
Meret: Even though living plastic-free is very difficult, it can be incredibly easy to reduce your consumption of plastic:
Plastic bags – Think twice if you need a plastic bag to pack your shopping goods (in supermarkets, book shops, clothing stores). Why don’t you just bring your own bag? In the supermarket, If you really feel like you need a plastic bag for the vegetables/fruits: put them all in one bag with all the stickers on it. Or get one of these great reusable vegetable/fruit bags that I use.
Water – Do you really need to buy bottled water? Why don’t you use a water filter and/or a home water carbonator?
Bring your own – Everytime you buy a packed salad, sandwich etc., you will only keep the packaging for like 5 minutes. But afterwards the plastic will stick around for approx. 400 more years. That thought convinced me to make more use of my own lunch box, thermo mug, and awesome sandwich wrapper.
For the ladies – As I said, I can only recommend using menstrual cups. They are not only better for nature and health, their use is also much cheaper.
Buy locally – Have a look if you find a farmer, eco market etc. in your city where you can buy e.g. dairy products from your region. Often these products also come with less packaging.
BioApply: The plastic problem is usually connected to developing countries and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, why to engage in countries such as Switzerland or Germany?
Meret: For one striking reason: Waste doesn’t know borders or nations. The waste that is floating around in the Pacific also comes from our lakes and rivers and also from the products that get shipped around the whole world for us. Eventually, if we pollute one part of our planet’s eco-system, it will always also affects other parts.
In the German-speaking countries, we often feel a bit “off the hook” because we think that our advanced recycling systems will fix it all. But reusing & recycling will not be enough! And, in fact, developing countries like Bangladesh, Ruanda or South Africa prohibited plastic bags already a few years back. I guess now it’s on us to catch up!