by Andrew Johnson
Single-use plastics are everywhere; they exist because it is relatively cheap and easy to make products from plastics and consumers have become used to quick and convenient packaging. But they are becoming a mountain of waste on the planet and negatively impacting the environment from their manufacture to disposal. The purpose of this article is not to discuss how plastic damages the environment but to suggest new ways to think about how we consume, highlight economical alternatives to single-use plastics and showcase businesses here in the Glebe that are striving to do better by reducing plastic dependency in the neighbourhood.
The Glebe is at the forefront of many social issues, so it is no surprise that on a hot and humid Tuesday night in late July roughly 50 Glebites came together in a stuffy hall to discuss reducing our collective plastic footprint. Another 50 responded that they could not attend but wanted to be kept informed. Many in attendance were outspoken on the issue and contributed to an engaging dialogue. One point that stuck with the group was the transformation of the three R’s, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” through the addition of “refuse.” Imagine a neighbourhood in which you could refuse to accept styrofoam take-out containers and opt for a reusable container. Imagine a neighbourhood in which you could say no to plastic tubs and bring your own containers to hold food items. Imagine a neighbourhood in which you could refuse a plastic water bottle and find an abundance of places to fill up your own reusable bottle for free.
Meeting participants were given the opportunity to identify and then vote on the items the Glebe should focus on first. The top three were plastic (over) packaging, plastic or styrofoam take-out containers (sometimes called “clamshells”), and plastic water bottles. Lots of suggestions were offered towards a strategy to address these ubiquitous products.
Tackling single-use plastics is not an easy feat. The entire community will need to participate for it to be effective. The Glebe Community Association Environment Committee understands this. As hosts for the discussion, they made sure to invite representatives of the Business Improvement Area, business owners and a range of concerned community members.
As the chair of the committee’s Task Force on Single-Use Plastics, it is my job to continue this conversation. The task force will meet with stakeholders in the community in the coming months to develop a strategy. We aim to celebrate successes, promote helpful approaches and acknowledge businesses that are taking steps in the right direction to reduce plastic waste. For example, the day after the meeting, McKeen Metro’s Rebecca McKeen advised us that her store’s deli staff would be happy to weigh our reusable containers if we bring them in to get deli products and then calculate the food weight accordingly. Said McKeen, “We have a sign up now over our deli salads indicating that we will fill reusable containers and the deli team is on board!” Kudos to all involved at Metro!
We are considering a survey to deepen our sense of the issues and to learn what kinds of actions will get buy-in from residents. For now, the task force asks community members to send us their concerns and suggestions. Write to us at this email address: GlebePlasticReduction@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Andrew Johnson is chair of the Task Force on Single-Use Plastics of the Glebe Community Association’s Environment Committee.