I WANT TO BREAK FREE FROM PLASTIC.
Nice catchphrase, sure. But how do I facilitate my struggle of trying to rid myself of the ubiquitous plastic that enters, or should I say penetrates, my everyday life? Listen, I am no saint. But I try to make conscious decisions that -hopefully- contribute to a better living environment. Which is why, since a couple of years, I have been active for Plastic Soup Foundation.
That being said, it was never a conscious decision to get involved with plastic pollution prevention. In my line of work I am in a privileged position. I am lucky enough to dive into the world of many different organisations, where plastic waste management, sustainability and education is part of their DNA.
It all started when I became the presenter for a Dutch children’s show called Hou ‘t Schoon (Keep it clean). A tv-programme in which kids aged 7-12 compete with their knowledge on recycling. See the leader below for the feel and look of the show. As you can see it was mostly about pure fun, action and excitement.
So… how much do you know about recycling? A quick test. In which bin does it belong?
- ♻ DIRTY PIZZABOX. Paper and cardboard have to be dry and clean for it to be suitable for recycling. That is why a greasy pizza box goes in the regular bin.
- ♻ RECEIPTS. Paper? Sure. But it is often infused with thermal ink. That makes it unsuitable for recycling.
- ♻ STYROFOAM. Even though it is a petroleum-based (plastic!) product, you can’t throw it in the plastic recycling bin. It is not suitable for the recycling installations.
A commendable concept. Kids learning about recycling, meanwhile educating their own environment and the viewers. But there is a glitch. Every municipality has its own rules and regulations. Where one city will decide on separate plastic recycling bins for their citizens, another will decide to not do it at all. They have the waste companies take care of it. I believe that a sustainable mindset is something that evolves over time. These different kind of policies makes it confusing and discouraging for some.
The topic returned in my other work. For instance, while presenting a corporate video about Plastic Recycling Fabriek Amsterdam. I learned about a revolutionary invention called Magnetic Density Separation (MDS). It is a technology that separates plastic waste into the different types, which allows the specified waste stream to be recycled into a high quality material. The next step is to recycle those types of plastic into more specified streams, in order to achieve true circularity of polymers. That way, we can recycle most of it, thus minimizing the need for raw plastic material. The next step is well on its way.
I am honoured to be the livestream moderator for the municipality of Amsterdam for Koplopersgroep Duurzame Ondernemerscollectieven. They are a group of sustainable entrepreneurial collectives that work together to achieve more sustainability. Such as better flows in waste management, with plastic being one of the larger waste streams. An enthusiastic and dedicated group of people. They want to make a difference in their direct surroundings. The pilot group has successfully made changes and the second group just started their process. An inspiring process to witness. The right, sustainable mindset is there.
The same goes for the Province of Utrecht , for whom I presented a video, in which employees talk about creating and maintaining a sustainable living and working environment for all. I also just finished filming a video for them about sustainable public transport, which they will achieve by expanding and innovating their electric bus-capacity.
STUDENTS TO THE RESCUE
I was especially inspired by the students of Technical University Eindhoven (TU/e), when I was the English moderator for their Career Event. Student teams pitched their innovative ideas on how to make this world a better place. The university curriculum is infused with sustainability. To them, sustainability is daily practice; they contribute to a better future. The stakes are high, because it’s their own future.
STOP RECYLING PLASTIC
Say what? I live in Amsterdam, where I got used to bringing my recyclable plastics to those big, orange recycling bins. I recycled the crap out of plastic wrappers, drinking cartons, bags, take-away containers and other countless items.
But this year, everything changed. Amsterdam stopped recycling plastic through the orange recycling bins. Citizens are no longer asked to recycle it, because all plastic waste in Amsterdam will be separated at the waste processing company. Because “it makes it easier for you and eventually results in more recyclable plastics.” I regret that decision, because I am convinced that tackling the problem on both a municipal level as well as on a citizens level, makes us all take ownership of the problem.
Even now I still catch myself separating the plastics and feeling confronted by the amount and hoping that the waste processors do a bang-up job in recycling it. But hoping doesn’t cut it.
PLASTIC SOUP FOUNDATION
In 2018 I was invited to become an ambassador and content creator for Plastic Soup Foundation (PSF). A role in which I have learned a lot and still do. But I am not a scientist, nor an investigative journalist who knows everything about plastic pollution. What I am is an allround mediamaker that does his best to change his behaviour. On account of myself and the world around me.
That is why PSF and I created the character of George. George tries to make the right plastic free decisions and takes the viewer along on his journey. George will be a returning character in several campaigns and social media channels, such as the Plastic Health Channel or the My Little Plastic Footprint App.
See below how George handles it. In this video he talks about how to reduce plastic pollution in your home. Freddie Mercury tribute & lipstick💄 included!
I WANT TO BREAK FREE FROM YOUR LIES
You’re so self satisfied I don’t need you. But, dear plastic industry, I do. I need you in my life. I can’t get used to, living without, living without, living without you by my side. Which makes me feel like a plastic junkie. So how do I handle this?
In the end, Plastic Soup Foundation is a single issue organisation with just one goal: to stop plastic pollution at it’s source. I find solace, motivation and inspiration in the simplicity of it. By making conscious decisions. By taking ownership of the situation and realising that we are (also) the source of the plastic pollution.
WHAT TO DO?
If you’re not with us, then you must be against us. Truth be told, I am quite allergic to that kind of sentiment, because the issue is not black-and-white. The answers manifest themselves in different forms. My belief is that everyone has a different role to fulfil in life. Plastic Soup Foundation informs and warns the public and politicians about the hazards of plastic pollution. Social media offers many plastic free accounts that inform. Online plastic free shops make it easier for you to make plastic free choices.
And my role? I find joy in transforming all the information into good-humoured, positive media productions. A role in which I can use my experience as a presenter, contributing editor and allround mediamaker to try and get everyone one step closer to a plastic free environment.
So. What’s your role?
Well… that’s up to you.