Say no to plas­tic

Re­fus­ing and re­duc­ing plas­tic use, es­pe­cially sin­gleuse ones, will go a long way to­wards pro­tect­ing Mother Earth.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Ecowatch - By WONG LI ZA star2­green@thes­tar.com.my

CAN we live without (sin­gle-use) plas­tic? That is ba­si­cally what Ma­reena Yahya chal­lenged her­self to do three years ago.

It all started when Ma­reena and her fam­ily, who love the out­doors, saw a lot of plas­tic and other rub­bish around when they went snorkelling in the is­lands of Malaysia.

The mother of two felt that as a yoga in­struc­tor, she was do­ing a lot for her mind and body but noth­ing for the earth. It was then that Ma­reena be­gan her quest to cut her plas­tic waste.

“Our earth is in a crit­i­cal stage. If we don’t do some­thing now, our grand­chil­dren may not be able to en­joy na­ture and its wildlife,” said Ma­reena, co-founder of Sam­pah Menyam­pah, a com­mu­nity group set up in March to pro­mote a cleaner, health­ier en­vi­ron­ment.

Ma­reena gave a talk on “How to Live without Plas­tics” last month at the Five Arts Cen­tre in Ta­man Tun Dr Is­mail, Kuala Lumpur. In par­tic­u­lar, Sam­pah Menyam­pah has started a #TakNakS­traw cam­paign to re­duce sin­gle-use plas­tic straws, many of which end up in the oceans and harm marine life like sea tur­tles.

“Re­duc­ing straws is a good start to clean­ing up our oceans. There is an ur­gent need for con­sumers to refuse plas­tic to (dis­cour­age) man­u­fac­tur­ers from pro­duc­ing them.

“We want to make peo­ple more aware. We can­not change every­one but if we can change half the com­mu­nity, that will be good,” said Ma­reena.

If we con­tinue at the cur­rent rate of throw­ing away sin­gle-use plas­tics, it is es­ti­mated that by 2050, our oceans will have more plas­tic than fish and 99% of seabirds will have in­gested plas­tic!

“Please try to elim­i­nate sin­gle-use and semi-dis­pos­able plas­tic items from your life. Things like straws, wa­ter bot­tles and plas­tic bags,” urged Ma­reena, who has been liv­ing al­most plas­tic-free since she first started the habit three years ago.

Her hus­band and two chil­dren are also ac­tively prac­tis­ing the habit of re­fus­ing plas­tic, even though her hus­band was scep­ti­cal at first.

To­day, Ma­reena car­ries her own forks and spoons, stain­less steel straws, wa­ter bot­tles and re­cy­clable bags when­ever she goes out.

“Make it a habit to bring things like a tif­fin car­rier for at least 21 days. Even if you re­duce half your plas­tic waste, it’s a big step,” ad­vised Ma­reena, who also stuffs ex­tra plas­tic bags into her bean bag in­stead of throw­ing them away.

So how do you start re­duc­ing your con­tri­bu­tion of plas­tic waste to the en­vi­ron­ment? Ma­reena gave these use­ful tips:

1 Sort out all the plas­tic bags in your house. Wash and re­use them to store food in the fridge or to buy veg­eta­bles or meat from the wet mar­ket.

2 Send ex­ist­ing plas­tic bot­tles for re­cy­cling or re­use them for craft work.

3 Start us­ing (stain­less steel or glass) wa­ter canti­nas for wa­ter or juices. For hot bev­er­ages, use cups or ther­mos mugs. Carry your own re­us­able forks, spoons or chop­sticks, in­stead of us­ing plas­tic ones.

4 Refuse poly­styrene and plas­tic bags when buy­ing things; bring your own tif­fin car­rier or other food con­tain­ers.

5 Do you know that ev­ery time you buy a bot­tle of de­ter­gent, floor cleaner or dish­washer from the store, you’re wast­ing money buy­ing the plas­tic bot­tle that comes with it? Why not bring your own bot­tles and fill them up with what­ever house­hold clean­ing prod­ucts you need? You can do this at Bring Your Own Bot­tle (BYOB), a con­cept store that pro­motes the 3R idea of Re­use, Re­cy­cle and Re­duce. They have sev­eral branches, in­clud­ing in Sarawak (www.byob.com.my).

6 Look for re­fill­able per­sonal care and skin­care prod­ucts with eco-friendly pack­ag­ing. Use soap bars rather than soap from bot­tles.

7 Buy or­ganic, non-pack­aged veg­eta­bles from wet or farm­ers mar­kets. Or get them de­liv­ered to your house.

8 Use bio-degrad­able per­sonal care prod­ucts like bam­boo tooth­brushes (avail­able on­line) or cloth sanitary pads (avail­able at cer­tain shops and on­line).

9 If you must buy things wrapped in plas­tic (like pasta), look for re­cy­clable pack­ag­ing.

10 For food waste like veg­eta­bles, fruit peels or meat bones, com­post it to be­come fer­tiliser for your gar­den. If you don’t have a gar­den, you can buy or DIY a com­post­ing bin. When the bin is full and the con­tents have de­com­posed, you can dis­pose them in a com­mu­nity gar­den or just throw them away as garbage.

Photos: Filepic

Even in the mid­dle of the Pa­cific Ocean, there is plas­tic de­bris, as seen here in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii. —

— MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

Ma­reena, co-founder of Sam­pah Menyam­pah, has cul­ti­vated the habit of hav­ing min­i­mal plas­tic waste for three years.

When pack­ing food, use a tif­fin car­rier.

Re­fill your own metal bot­tles rather than spend money buy­ing wa­ter in dis­pos­able bot­tles.

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