Plastic is evil

Read this post in Russian / Почитать эту заметку на русском

When I came back from the Maldives, it took me a while to get used to the busy streets and moody people again, and surprisingly to … plastic bags as well.

The trash on the resort islands is being taken care of, but no one cares about the deserted islands: the trash from all over the world is just left lying around there. Picture by Chiara Fumagalli.

The trash on the resort islands is being taken care of, but no one cares about the deserted islands: all the trash from all over the world is just left lying around there. Picture by Chiara Fumagalli.

Plastic was sort of banned on my island: the textile beach bags were provided in villas, the gift shop had paper bags only, there were no plastic ballpoint pens in the rooms – guests could make use of wooden pencils instead, and water was served in reusable glass bottles. I mean, probably all of that is done to create an image of an environmentally friendly business rather than of actual care for the environment, but it doesn’t change the fact that finding a plastic bag was a challenge on the island.

That’s why it struck me when I realized how easy it was for people in cities to use plastic bags and containers. We don’t think twice when we take two separate plastic bags, say, for tomatoes and cucumbers, just to carry them to the cash counter and then home. Sure, it’s a free service provided by the shop, so we don’t actually keep count: one bag for tomatoes, one bag for cucumbers, and then as soon as we get home we throw them away into a rubbish bag (also made of plastic!). Who cares?

I’m sure everyone knows that it takes dozens, if not hundreds of years, for a plastic bag to biodegrade. It releases toxic chemicals if burned, and if it ends up in soil or in the ocean, it stays there for ages. And it kills.

While working in the Maldives, I eye witnessed my colleagues rescuing several turtles that got tangled in rubbish and were sentenced to a cruel death. These guys were lucky enough to be noticed and saved:

This little one was tangled in a fishing net. Picture by Chiara Fumagalli.

This little one was tangled in a fishing net. Picture by Chiara Fumagalli.

And this one was stuck in a trash bin cover. You can see a deep cut in her shell near the left bottom flipper. Picture by Chiara Fumagalli.

And this one was stuck in a trash bin cover. You can see a deep cut in her shell near the left bottom flipper. Picture by Chiara Fumagalli.

What’s more, sea turtles can take a plastic bag for a jellyfish and eat it. Obviously such a lunch can’t end well for the animal :(

So what can we do? Of course it’s not easy to say goodbye to things that make our life easy and comfortable. I’m not an angel myself, I use plastic trash bags, I buy water in plastic bottles sometimes. But here are some simple steps that you might consider taking…

A cotton bag and a thermos - my way to save the Galaxy ;)

A cotton bag and a thermos – my way to save the Galaxy ;)


– get a cotton bag. Since 2011 I have been carrying a simple cotton bag with me, wherever I go. It’s still the same one, three years and counting. It’s very light, it takes little space in my handbag, it’s easy to wash and can carry more weight than a plastic bag. And year, the colours have faded and it looks a bit dull now, but try counting how many plastic bags I didn’t use thanks to that bag! You can buy a cotton bag in lots of shops in Ufa now, and they don’t cost much.

– if you like to buy a bottle of water or a cup of coffee on your way to the office, get a little thermos instead. It really is easy to carry and it saves lots of money. I have one, and it’s always with me when I’m travelling.

– try to reduce the amount of plastic bags and containers that you take from the supermarkets. Even if they are free, take only what you really need.

– stop drinking beer and soda in plastic bottles, switch to juice in paper packs. It’s healthier as well :) And if you had to buy a drink in a plastic bottle, make sure to throw the empty bottle to the “recycle” trash bin.

– if you are going for a picnic to the countryside, be a hero and take regular cutlery and plates, not the one-time use plastic ones. Sure you’ll have to wash the dishes when you get back home, but just think about the damage all those plastic containers and folks and cups will cause to the environment! And, obviously, don’t forget to clean up after the picnic is over and take care of the rubbish: don’t leave it behind.

Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Remember this motto whenever you go travelling.

– call your houselord and ask him where the nearest “recycle” trash bins are, ie find out where you can get rid of plastic bottles, used batteries, lamps etc without poisoning the environment. Did you know that even shampoo bottles can sometimes be recycled these days? If your landlady can’t help you on-the-spot, at least she will know that people are curious about these things and maybe will try to find out.

– learn to care about the environment.
I’m not joking. Always keep in mind that it’s our planet, our home we are talking about, and it’s our responsibility. Stop being part of ‘consumption society’ and start thinking about the Earth and its inhabitants. If you do that, the rest will come automatically, and you’ll never forget to switch off the lights in your flat when you go out, and leaving the water on when you brush your teeth will seem weird. Respect the nature.

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