The harder parts of going zero waste or going green, have to do with items which require a bit of pre planning, whether it be food you're bringing into your home or out of it.
I had a good rant the other day (straw story) about cafe Rosa Bonheur here in Paris, and how they serve everything, from food to drink, in plastic to-go containers. Then a few nights later, as we wandered home from Fete De La Musique we grabbed a kebab, which came in a styrofoam container, basically the worst guy out there in terms of negative effects, from creation to destruction, on the planet and her inhabitants ... and I ended the night, mouth half full god knows what, ranting at myself.
I'm aware it will take some time for us to adjust to this lifestyle before we stop committing daily hypocrisies, and like any change, it's an ongoing process that will take a proper journey to resemble anything close to perfection. It requires habit change, which requires personal scrutiny, societal scrutiny, and often times, awkward social interaction. Not the most attractive set of traits.
As I continue to educate myself on this journey towards a better state of eco understanding and ethical awareness, I discover less judgemental ways to deal with the issues I find. Most often this means, discovering a solution and putting it to use, then sharing that solution with other people in full acceptance that my solution may be wrong, incomplete, or could use some improvements.
There are numerous reasons why accepting a styrofoam or plastic container aren't good, which I'll outline below, and in reality, the two substances are sometimes unavoidable, but understanding the true cost of the thing is what separates you from wanting to be a part of it, and ignites the activist in you to be part of the change.
- THE PROBLEM WITH STYROFOAM & PLASTIC -
The primary element to make styrofoam is styrene, which according to the EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is a possible human carcinogen, meaning those who are exposed to it durign he manufacturing process are poisoned by it, causing them horrific health harms. This pollution also leaks into the air, releasing approximately 57 chemicals which harm human and planet heath, adding to global warming and ozone layer breakdown. The solid waste produced in its production is highly toxic too and is often disposed of unethically.
It is not biodegradable as well, which means it last for ever. It also ends up in our waterways as it floats, breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, and is mistaken for food by marine life and animals (which we end up eating too).
[Plastic] There are a ton of different types of plastic, only three of which (to date) have been proven to contain chemicals that leach into your food and cause cancers. If you must use plastic food storage (which I don’t recommend) you should check the bottom of the container to make sure the number 2, 4, or 5 are listed. If another number is there, then it contains BPAs or other harmful chemicals which will cause you and your children a hole host of health pains (read more about them here).
Even once plastics have reaped hell on the environment and your health, they're not even easy to recycle. First of all, because each type of plastic requires a different type of recycling not all recycling centres even take all plastics. Second, even if it makes it to the recycling, the recycling process itself releases toxins and chemicals into the air. Third, it never biodegrades. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and finds itself in the stomachs of wildlife and fish slowly suffocating them to death and causing huge issues with our biosphere.
We have enough plastic on this earth already. In fact we have 5 gyres of it in our oceans. We don’t need new plastic to be produced.
- SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS -
The solution to the problem of to-go containers, whether they're in your home, a part of your restaurant take away service is quite simple, but not so simple to put in place:
1. Have something with you which you can take your to-go food in, whether it is Recycled Aluminium Foil, Bee'S Wrap, tupperware, reusable sandwich bag, or a Japanese wrapping cloth, they'll all work. If you're ordering ahead, tell them not to put it in a to-go container, that you'll bring your own.
2. Choose to order from places that don't use styrofoam or plastic, and ideally have compostable containers. There's this AWESOME Lebanese place on Oberkamft which has biodegradable food wrap and organic produce, and it's about 3€ more than the kebab place.
3. When you're picnic-ing or bringing your own food out of the house, don't use plastic or styrofoam to port it or eat it. There are thousands of options for biodegradable or reusable picnic gear, it's a far better investment!
1. BEE'S WRAP
* if you've found other solutions, please post in the comments below!