By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
Over 19,500,000,000 pieces of plastic can be found on an average inside a home in the developed world. The plastic crisis we’re in is very real. Every single minute of every single day a truckload of plastic is finding its way into the world’s oceans – and once it’s there it sticks around for hundreds of years. There’s so much plastic that some of it isn’t even visible because over time it has been broken down into microscopic pieces. It means small pieces are now passing up the food chain, therefore harming animals. As individuals we need to question the starting point for any item we procure. Is it sustainable? Can we reuse it? Is it biodegradable? What is the environmental impact?
This week I encountered a customer at my vegan cafe asking if we were using sustainable materials, or if the corn-starch packaging (which looks a lot like plastic) was actually...plastic? Of course, it wasn’t plastic, as for my businesses, if the product and supplier adheres to our ethos and standards then and only then will we look at the financials of the products. The use of a plastic straw was once a global phenomenon, now the world is realising the damage a single use item like a straw causes to the environment, and to ecosystems. For years; I’ve only used paper straws and bamboo straws — which can be recycled, or reused.
We sell many of our products in glass jars and bottles and actively promote the reuse of these. Wherever possible, minimum packaging is used at my cafe and we want it to be reused. We are delighted to receive returned jars and bottles back into the café and encourage our customers to reuse them at home, if they can’t return them. This year we are rewarding customers that return glass bottles and jar, for every 10 returned you receive a free juice. Individual steps are great, but we also need to call on business giants to ensure they’re playing their part in reducing plastic. For example, it’s often presumed that our supermarkets are taking up various ‘reduce plastic’ schemes – whether that’s by introducing a $ charge for the bag, or by swapping plastic meal packaging for cardboard. But, the reality is that supermarkets could be doing a lot more— including eliminating all plastic bags in exchange for recyclable, paper bags. On this matter, if Qatar were to take a leaf out of Rwanda’s book — a 100% ban on plastic bags could help us as a nation reduce our excessive plastic use. Using biodegradable natural materials is one of our key messages, and should be a priority consideration for many businesses.
This year we had a real breakthrough by introducing corn starch and fermented sugars packaging — it would be great to see others follow in helping ensure a sustainable way of business.
The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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