There has been mass production of plastic waste across the globe, driven by the need for food preservation solutions, customer convenience and attractive marketplace packaging. Therefore, we are seeing approximately 8.3 billion metric tons being produced annually. What’s worse however, is that 91% of this waste is not being recycled and, if we continue on this downward spiral, by 2050 there will be over 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfill each year.
If we consider that plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, as businesses and consumers, we need to ask ourselves – what impact is this having on the environment and, better yet, what should we be doing to change the status quo?
While much work is being done to drive plastic waste from landfill, in the form of waste management innovation, there is still a lot of education that needs to happen to avoid landfill altogether – this means changing behaviours of the very consumers that buy the products, as well as providing companies and municipalities that are responsible for disposal of such waste, with strong alternatives.
From a business/government perspective, it is a matter of reducing reliance on landfill disposal where, while commonly seen as a cheaper option, reducing reliance on such landfills will create a platform for waste management innovation, as well as drive a more responsible consumer.
From a consumer perspective is it simply about finding ways to create a zero-waste lifestyle.
As a “throw away nation”, it is simply too easy for us to throw away excess packaging - which essentially ends up in landfill. However, with continued education we are witnessing (slowly but surely) a stronger worldwide awareness around reducing waste. Consumers are becoming much more conscious about the way in which they manage their own carbon footprint – which is most noticeable in the grocery retail space, as well as in the restaurant/fast food industry.
While large retailers are driving innovation around the banning of plastic bag usage – which is making a difference - in South Africa, we are seeing global trends such as zero-waste supermarkets becoming more mainstream. This type of lifestyle shift is critical if we hope to reduce the impact of plastic waste on our environment.
One such company has made it their mission to aid South Africans with their #zerowastelifestyle – The Refillery.
Inspired by “plastic-free July” (a global challenge that sees people “choose to refuse” single-use plastics during the month of July) they took on the challenge of identifying a way in which they could reduce the plastic consumption issue, while still meeting the needs of South Africans and their busy lifestyles. Hence, the Refillery - Johannesburg’s very first plastic-free grocery store, dedicated to helping South Africans fill their pantries, whilst addressing the plastic pollution crisis.
The Refillery offers a Home Delivery and Refilling service plus a Call and Collect facility. They aim to make it easier for the environmentally conscious as well as convenience-seeking customers to reduce South Africa’s (and the world’s) plastic pollution crisis.
Everything was competitively priced, with all products decanted into glass jars or packed into recyclable brown paper bags (alternatively you can bring your containers with you and fill-them-up while you’re there). In doing this, you are also choosing your own portions/sizes, relevant to what your family consumes, which means less food wastage too.
For those that don’t want to drive to the store, we tested their online ordering system which worked perfectly – offering you zero-waste packing options. Everything is delivered in an easy to recycle or reuse box – which makes it that much more attractive as a zero-waste lifestyle alternative.
Stores like the Refillery are really changing the way in which consumers manage their waste outputs and this, together with the move away from single-use plastic in restaurants and supermarkets, are sure to help consumers elevate their zero-waste lifestyles.
Other ways you can improve your zero-waste lifestyle include:
- Say no to business cards, plastic bags and straws
- Cut back on processed foods and use fresh foods that don’t require packaging
- Use less – whether it is soap, detergent etc. These items are developed to encourage larger usage at any given time, so simply cut back
- Focus on using re-usable items such as a water bottle, etc.
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