Pollution is one of the biggest threats of our time. Our planet is dirtier than ever before. Every year more than 7 billion tons of plastic are produced and only 9% of it gets recycled, 12% burned. The rest is ending up in landfills or in nature. And at some point, most trash is carried in our oceans. Meanwhile, our oceans are polluted enough to form gigantic garbage islands. The biggest is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) with 1.6 million square km. That is an area 64 times bigger than North Macedonia of extremely concentrated trash, caught in a vortex.
Polluted oceans are not only a great threat to marine life but also to us humans. Already every third of fish consumed by humans contains microplastics, which is definitely a threat to human health as well.
Considering this, it is very urgent that we finally start to tackle pollution. Pollution always starts with the consumer but also governments and decision-makers have to contribute massively. A zero-waste society without a working waste management system is not possible. Politicians are responsible to enable their citizens, to get rid of their junk in a responsible and sustainable way. And this is where we as consumers come in because after all we also have to use the given opportunities. Not only do we have to be aware of how we dumb our trash, but also we need to consume less garbage in general. And it is possible!
The average person in my eco-village “Sieben Linden” produces 85% less garbage than the German average. That means one Sieben Linden resident produced in 2016 around 90 kg of municipal waste instead of 609 kg. This is mainly possible because all people living there are very mindful consumers, caring about their impact on the environment. They use refillable bottles and cups, textile bags instead of plastic bags and only buy what is really necessary or useful for them. As we are a close community, we also share everything. For example, we have a give-away corner, where everybody can bring not anymore needed but still working stuff, that is free to take for everybody. Parents can bring all the baby equipment their children don’t need anymore and younger parents are happy that they don’t have to buy everything. I even found my guitar and many of my clothes there! Furthermore, every month a Repair-café is happening, where people get assistance repairing broken things and bring cake or coffee in exchange.
Very impactful is also our food system. As we are 70% self-sufficient with fruits and vegetables, we can save a lot of packaging and transportation, because the food goes directly from garden to kitchen. The other groceries are delivered in a big transporter twice a week. Because the food supply system is centralized, we can order a huge amount of everything, which is saving packaging again. A 100kg sack of rice obviously needs less packaging than if 100 people buy their own 1kg bag of rice.
Of course, the food system is not implementable for everybody but the rules are always the same: get as local food as possible (Green Market) or even grow it yourself and buy rather one big than multiple small portions. Also, look within your friends or family if someone needs your old things before you throw them away.
Pollution is something everybody can tackle in his/her everyday life and a not working waste system is no excuse to don’t care about your junk at all.