We live in a new era. Thousands of years from now, future generations or perhaps alien visitors would easily recognize humanity’s transition to industrialization and what we call modernity by the presence of radioactive particles, the ubiquity of chicken bones and plastic in fossil records. This is the mark of the Anthropocene.
The creation of non-biodegradable waste – unknown to nature and recent for mankind- is pervasive in our everyday life. 418 kilograms of waste are produced by every person living in Brussels each year, with slight decreases but overall little variations in the last decade. The plastic should not end up in the wild: it is burned and produces electricity. But this means it produces CO2, further contributing to climate change. Efforts by the industry are close to insignificant, with a tendency to increase plastic packaging unnecessarily, and sometimes to ridiculous extents such as the below peeled and wrapped bananas. The government often does too little too late, like the 2017 ban on non reusable or recyclable bags in shops in Brussels.
Citizens have a power to change this: the first Plastic Attack has been staged in Belgium this year, which consisted in protesting excess plastic by leaving it all behind once they had shopped in supermarkets. Furthermore, people can vote with their wallets and favor shops that offer the possibility to buy in bulk. Zero Waste Belgium has a map of all stores that sell bulk products.
It requires a bit more organization but habits are quickly formed. You can also separate food waste in orange bags, which helps to produce green energy and produce compost.
There are a number of resources online to further your zero waste adventure, from making your own detergent to making your own make up. If you want support and speak French, why not sign up to be eligible for free environmental coaching ? The important thing is to start with what you are comfortable, and take little steps to reduce your waste. A year from now you might have the joy of only taking down the white garbage bag once a fortnight.