In May, I wrote here about Bibi Rogers, who created the company 4U2ReUSE to try and help reduce plastic bag waste. Bibi just got back from Barcelona, Spain, where she noticed waste reductions efforts as well as areas for improvement. I thought it would be cool to have her share her story here, as she is passionate about finding solutions to the plastic problem. A round of applause, please, for Bibi!
I recently traveled from my current home in Delray Beach, Florida, to my hometown, Barcelona, Spain. It was an important trip: In addition I was going to reveal to my dear mum that after all those years in medical school, surgical college, earning my PhD, I decided to join the anti-plastic campaign. I’d ditched my job as a surgeon and founded a company called 4U2ReUSE to sell plastic bag carriers on the Internet, encouraging people to reuse their existing plastic bags instead of acquiring new ones, and raising awareness about the adverse effects plastic waste has on our environment.
The trip started well. We landed in Madrid and Daniel, my 3-year-old, decided he needed to go to the loo just before we got our passports stamped. To my surprise, the bathroom had glass soap dispensers attached to the wall, as well as non-plastic feminine hygiene products in a metal dispenser (I couldn’t help it—I actually purchased one to check).
I also noticed recycling signed bins all throughout the airport. Nice, I thought. We took another flight and shortly arrived in Barcelona, where my mum, aunt, and brother found us at the airport and welcomed us.
During my stay, I kept an eye on how the Catalan (that’s how you call the people from Catalonia on the North East of Spain) use and reuse plastic. Water: refillable glass containers. Check.
Yogurts: glass containers. Check. Recycling: many recycling containers for glass, paper and plastic and people used them. Check. Food wrap: Not so good—loads of cling filmed chicken, etc. It was similar to the average supermarket in Florida. But by and large, so far so good.
Then the inevitable happened—we had to go shopping for food. And oh my—plastic bags a galore! But even worse? “Expensive” plastic bags galore. You know the ones: the green-colored, so-called “eco-friendly” bags branded with some “eco” name, like “eco-rock,” “eco-flower,” or “eco-safe.” I say, “eco-bunk.” People were paying for these bags, and truly believed they were being environmentally conscious. But as is often the case, they weren’t looking closely at the labels: 100% non-woven polyester. I actually asked a couple of shoppers—to the absolute horror of my mum—if they knew what the bags were really made of. They all thought cotton. I had to sit down to have some xocolata amb ensaà¯amada, and I was relieved to see that my cutlery was non-plastic and all drinks were poured from glass bottles into glass cups.
Later in my trip, the unavoidable chat with mum eventually happened—at my late father’s studio/office of all places! (Ironically for me, my father worked in plastics throughout his life, he started as an architect but became successful as an industrial engineer designing molds for injection plastic machines.) I tried to convince mum to believe me, explaining to her how important this cause is to me.
As I a talked with her, I looked around my father’s studio and observed a large four-foot spoon and fork set hanging from the wall that looked like wood, a framed bendy striped-straw, a fake wall clock, a fake wall thermometer—all those things were the result of my father’s injection-mold designs. But if he’d known better, I know he would have joined our crusade. She was looking to me all perplexed, with watery eyes and I closed my eyes expecting to hear her yelling “Mare meva” to feel her arms start moving like windmills but no, she hugged me, she hugged me dearly.
My memorable visit to my hometown made it clear that, as is the case in the States, plastic is not completely out of Barcelona. So needless to say, there is a lot of work to be done. And fast! It’s in each and everyone’s home where one has to start their fight.
The photo above shows a sign that translates, “Don’t get the walls dirty. Cleanliness is a great sign of civilization.”
Thanks for your story, Bibi. And speaking of cleanliness, this month’s Carnival of Trash is up over at Mrs. Green’s blog, My Zero Waste. Check it out. The carnival will be hosted here at Fake Plastic Fish next month, so please send your trashy posts via the carnival submission form. The deadline is September 12.