Living Plastic Free in Groningen
Last month, I posted an empty, cleaned, used bottle of softener detergent back to its German distributing company. Also in the package was a letter I wrote. The letter detailed a possible solution and pathway into a circular system for their plastic packaging: by sending back their product packaging, they could refill it with the same substance that it was originally used for, and return it back to our shelves for our re-purchase and reuse.
It saves manufacturing energy, time, and money from constantly producing virgin plastic bottles. I am also aware that the type of plastic they use for their products can be easily recycled (in comparison to other types of plastic), and that the company has a sustainability report in which they are working towards making most of their plastic products from recycled materials. Nevertheless, despite the recycling of PET plastic, the bottles and emptied plastic products would still be put in the unseparated bins of the conventional household. They will still last only one life cycle.
In line with my suggestion, it might also be worthwhile for the company to consider incorporating a deposit-return scheme as we have for our drink bottles at the supermarket. It would encourage consumers to send their empty (but still clean and reusable) containers back. Obviously shipping it would become too expensive, but having collection points in the stores in which they sell their products would be an excellent start. That is why I’m using this blog on this platform to ask you, a consumer of plastic, to follow my act. It might take more than signing petitions to ban single-use plastic to get this idea rolling in the faces of all of these major corporations, even if they do set “green/sustainability goals” for themselves. We might have to literally shove the solutions and ideas in their faces. So, please, if you can’t stomach throwing away another big bottle of washing detergent or body cream or shampoo, then consider looking for the address of the distributor and mailing the empty bottle back to them with a letter requesting they refill it. Obviously, it makes sense if there is almost no damage to the container you’re sending back.
How can students in Groningen adjust their plastic consumption?
Following this, it would make sense to look at your own, individual plastic consumption and discovering how to limit it. Especially in our student city, where late nights out lead to littered streets, ever-changing trends lead to fast fashion, and many take-away businesses leading to mountains of single-use plastic. Here are a few places in Groningen that follow the zero-waste lifestyle:
Ekoplaza (Gedempte Zuiderdiep & Nieuwe Ebbingestraat) + Stichting De Nieuwe Weg
You don’t just have to eat at places like De Herbivoor and WOK& to make an impact with your diet (and avoid single-use plastic at the same time). Ekoplaza is of course, a few cents more expensive, but they provide you with huge bottles that will last you forever, and usually in glass (which will forever be recyclable). They also provide biodegradable bags to gather up your weighted produce, and you can bring your own containers to buy as many nuts, oats, or dried produce as you need. They will charge you per weight. The same system is in the health food store De Nieuwe Weg, which you can find on Nieuweweg. I know many students tend not to waste more money on “bio” food because of the prices, but we’re talking only cents more expensive. And most students can afford it if they choose to prioritise it.
Don’t think you need to buy a whole bunch of glass jars and containers to start reducing your plastic waste and shop at these places, what I do is I’ve kept my old takeaway containers (many of them are grade 5 plastic – polypropylene – which is notoriously difficult to recycle) and use them at these stores for the dried produce. You get more for the buck and don’t end up chucking out insane amounts of plastic at the same time.
The Farmer’s Market
Likely everyone is aware of the Vismarkt on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. You save so much money and get so much fresh produce at the same time. Admittedly, you may get the occasional berries in plastic but I find I could use the plastic containers as pots for growing plants. Additionally, the paper bags they place your produce in are compostable. When mixed with soil, I’ve found they degrade in a little over a month. However, it’s still a better alternative to bring your own reusable bags to collect your produce in, so more bags aren’t used than trees can be grown. I see a lot of people doing this at the market, and it’s impressive.
Dille & Kamille
This place is your go-to for kitchen, garden, and bathroom. They sell a myriad of glass jars, stainless steel kitchenware, soap bars, garden utensils, and more. It’s also tempting, once again, to buy every jar, utensil, and pot to replace every plastic you have in your home, but if you do this all at once you’ll still just end up dumping a huge amount of plastic. Phase out the plastic in your life by not adding more plastic to your life and using up what you do have. D&K is perfect for this. The store itself is also incredibly inspiring to live a minimalist, healthy lifestyle.