Tackling plastic waste this summer (and beyond)

As we are enjoying the summer at last here, I notice even more how much plastic waste is accumulating in the bins in the city. Whilst there is a good system of recycling from homes there is none really for public bins and that is where people are putting a lot of plastic waste from smoothie cups and coffee cup lids to straws and ice cream spoons. Bins are overflowing with plastic.Whilst we can put pressure on supermarkets to reduce the amount of plastic they use, there are many steps we can take to reduce the single use plastic we use ourselves. I read last week that Americans throw away 500 million plastic straws a day  and that every piece of plastic ever made is still in existence somewhere on the planet.

I recall working on campaigns to reduce plastic waste over 15 years ago when I worked for the Women’s institute and it astounds me that the same campaigns and advice is still needed now. It is easy to look at the huge issue of plastic waste and feel that we are powerless but unless everyone takes even the tiniest of steps themselves there will never be change.

I am as much of a culprit as many others but I do try and takes steps to reduce our plastic consumption and when I don’t I feel a twinge of guilt. So today I thought I’d share some ways you can reduce your plastic waste this summer and beyond.

First up plastic bags. This is an easy and inexpensive one to tackle – cloth bags. Pop into any Søstrene Green and you can pick up a cloth bag of a few Krone, roll it up and keep it in your bag and you will never need a plastic bag again. For heavier shopping bags from Onya are amazing and they pack up into little pouches so you can again keep them in your bag. You can also find these kinds of bags in many shops in Denmark.  I bought a selection of these bags about 10 years ago and the first one has bitten the dust this summer.  We have a selection of strong cloth bags in our shoe closet so if anyone in the house goes shopping they can simply grab one.

When you are shopping for loose fruit and veg (which isn’t always easy to find this kind of produce without packaging) you can use cloth bags instead of the plastic ones in the supermarket and they can be used time and time again.  There are other places that sell these kind of bags but keep in mind you are reducing plastic waste so try and find cloth ones. You can buy them very cheaply in Løs in Vesterbro (as well as package free foods).Coffee cups and lids are an obvious one and again an easy one to tackle with reusable coffee cups. If a coffee shop refuses to use your cup then find one that does – Riccos certainly oblige. You are spoilt for choice with insulated coffee cups here from expensive ones from places like Imerco to cheap and cheerful ones from Søstrene Green, Tiger and supermarkets. Again be mindful about what the cup is made from as you are trying to reduce plastic waste. Drinking bottles are another thing you can buy and refill with water – you can get metal ones easily. You can also get smoothie cups with lids in some shops for that smoothie on the go (not tried to ask the guys in Joe and the Juice to fill one of these but I can’t see there would be an issue).

As mentioned above one time use plastic straws are a huge issue. An alternative is paper straws which again can be found easily in (you guessed it) Søstrene Green. But an even better alternative is reusable straws such as these Eco StrawsWe all love a bit of ice cream in Denmark but think of all those colourful plastic spoons used every hot day. Easy fix is to keep a little spoon in your bag for such occasions. Nothing fancy just something you can wash and use again. Same goes for cutlery you may use with takeout lunch food.

Finally a real bug bear of mine is the little plastic gloves supermarkets provide at their self-serve bakery shelves. There are also tongs there – use the tongs, people and save on plastic, it’s just as hygienic. And if there are no tongs available vote with your feet and money and go elsewhere (after mentioning it to the manager).

I know you are probably thinking that is a lot to carry around but it isn’t really and it makes all the difference to the city and the world around us.

Some other actions to consider are buying things such as washing detergent, hand soap etc in eco bags and filling your bottles at home. Neutral do Eco Pack which use 75% less plastic than a bottle. Also direct action by complaining to your local supermarket head office about their plastic use. Little steps create big leaps.



Stop b*tching and start a revolution

A lot has changed in Copenhagen over the nine years I’ve lived here but it is still a city I am in love with. It has matured into a different kind of love than the heady early days. I still get my breath taken away by the city, I still love the people here and our life. But most of the time it is the kind of love that makes you feel comfortable and safe.  That this is my city and my home – this makes me happy.

I do however see changes. With the supposed housing shortage here there are more and more apartments being built and it is changing the face of the city. For many, many years there was a building policy about the heights of building and whilst new applications are looked at carefully, this rule is being waived more and more, with high rise public buildings and apartments popping up in Nørrebro, Vesterbro and the city centre. These buildings set a precedent and I fear that the flat beauty of the city is slowly being eroded.

When I read that the iconic Palads cinema painted in its beautiful pastel colours by Poul Gernes in 1989 and has been standing since 1912 will be torn down to be replaced by some steel and glass behemoth it makes me mad (as it did a number of people who protested the decision).

There are plans to build yet another high rise apartment, retail and leisure complex on its site, so close to the incongruous building that is Axel Towers, I wonder if we are now on a slippery slope where Big Money and developers are deciding the face of our city.

I wrote about the changing face of Vesterbro before and talking to a friend who is moving out of her post 90s apartment there I hear the rent for this two bedroom place will be pushing 23,000dkk a month for the next tenants and this is living in the middle of bars and the Red Light area. With no cap on rents in modern apartments, how long will it be before the regular working person is pushed out of the market, both rental and buying, in the newly built areas, if they can ever afford to live there in the first place?

There are a number of active groups trying to save places from major development such as the biodiversity of Amager Fælled to Palads Theatre to trees all over the city. Many organise via Facebook so that is a good place to start if you want to get involved. I know there is an argument that these protests don’t work but sometimes they do and that is no excuse to sit on your sofa and do nothing.

If nothing else get aware and sign petitions. But if you are on your sofa take a visit to www.wechange.dk and add your signature to causes that mean something to you (this platform is one that anyone can post a petition on so there are some very micro interest ones) or start your own petition.

In a small country this can have more impact than in bigger ones. The petition against proposed development on Amager Fælled has 28,000 signatures and a decision is pending in parliament over this issue and there is a protest organised for the 7 May  Sandra Høj is the woman behind Rød Byens Trær and she works to protect valuable mature trees in the city from being cut down and has had some victories.

If you love eating in the current grungey Copenhagen Street Food you may want to get involved in signing a petition to save this from modern development and of course yet again more apartments. I know it’s a tiny bit of history being lost here (and by that I mean the old paper stores from when newspapers were printed here) but with each little bit of history being erased by homogenous modern developments the soul of the city is slowly chipped away. Remember the destruction is the Wall of Fame last year? Little but not insignificant.

It is time what we stood up to the big developers and show that there is value in the old and also in nature.  There are battles on many fronts and this is a war we may not win in the end but small victories count. So like a t shirt I bought years ago in the hotbed of political activism that is Berkeley, California says: *Stop bitching and start a revolution”.