“Canadians know first-hand the impacts of plastic pollution and are tired of seeing their beaches, parks, streets, and shorelines littered with plastic waste. We have a responsibility to work with our partners to reduce plastic pollution, protect the environment, and create jobs and grow our economy. We owe it to our kids to keep the environment clean and safe for generations to come.”
This quote, from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, came from the announcement that Canada will seek to ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021, joining countries like Bangladesh, Kenya and Rwanda in taking a strong stance against plastic pollution.
Vancouver grocery store East West Market is already preparing its customers for life after plastic bags by creatively shaming those who come in without a reusable. Who wants to be seen walking around town carrying around one of these babies?
David Lee Kwen, the shop’s owner, insisted that the plan wasn’t to embarrass customers. “We wanted to give them something humorous, but also something that made them think at the same time,” he told the Guardian. “It’s human nature not to want to be told what to do.”
“So many people own reusable bags but forget to bring them. We want to help customers remember their reusable bags in a way that will really stick with them.”
While warts and colon care is nothing to be ashamed of, David has a good point about the way messages about the environment are conveyed. People really don’t like to be told what to do and some well-meaning messages can come across as elitist and sanctimonious, particularly to those who have less of a choice. A pinch of humor goes a long way and that’s exactly what this initiative provides.
The scale of the problem with plastic waste is immense; it is estimated that one garbage truckload of plastic waste enters the ocean every minute, and that amount is increasing steadily. Companies produce an estimated 5 trillion plastic bags a year. Each one can take more than 1,000 years to decompose, and few are recycled.
127 countries have so far taken some kind of legal action to regulate plastic bags, ranging from a strict ban in Kenya to progressive action on single-use plastics in India. These are positive steps, but there is still a long way to go before we are anywhere near the kind of long-term change in attitudes and business practices that is needed globally.
Maybe a little additional public shaming is just the kind of kick in the butt that we all need to ditch the plastic bags for good?
Either way, East West Market’s clever take on spreading the message has been successful in that people are talking and thinking more about the ways that they consume plastic. According to the Canadian government, about one-third of the plastics used in Canada are for single-use or short-lived products and packaging. Up to 15 billion plastic bags are used every year and close to 57 million straws are used daily. This is just insane! The sooner that people get the message that things must change and change now, the better.
What do you think? Is this kind of humorous ‘shaming’ a good way to get the message across? What is your country trying to do about plastic waste? Do you make a conscious effort to reduce your use of plastic bags? Let us know what you think in the comments!