We recently went to a Keells event where they are committing to reduce plastic use in their stores by 50% over 5 years. So they'll support consumers to reduce plastic use. But you and I still have to do it. As the 138 bus conductor says, "change cannot be given to you every time, you must bring the change".
These are some of the changes at Keells:
There's a new range of bags, ranging from paper bags to cotton to mesh. The big ones have some cool designs on them, like elephants and turtles and stuff. Then there are the usual reusable green bags.
At the meat, fish and bakery counters you can bring your own containers (plastic, metal, whatever) as well. Obviously fewer people are going to do this so they offer biodegradable (compostable) bags at the fish and meat counters, for free.
However, all of these initiatives require you to bring the change. You have to keep reusable bags and containers with you and remember to bring them into the store. Keells staff has been trained to encourage all of this behavior, but we as consumers still have to practice it.
Of course, the more economic solution is for the government to simply impose a cost on all plastic usage. In other countries there are small charges for bags and usage has decreased dramatically. However, in Sri Lanka, this legislation hasn't passed, so if this issue is important to you please talk to your lawmakers.
As it is, there is still no cost to plastic usage, so it's hard to resist, and most supermarkets and outlets still offer it freely. Because people demand it.
Hence while it is great that Keells is taking this initiative, ultimately the pressure needs to come from average consumers – to bring their own bags, to say no to plastic, and to eventually impose a cost on all plastic usage.
Keells has given a target of five years for this change, but any company could actually do it much faster. The only thing slowing environmentalism down is us. So, next time you go to the store, here's a checklist:
- Have I bought reusable bags at all?
- Did I remember to take my bags from home?
- Did I remember to get my bags out of the car/tuk/bus?
- Did I minimize bag-use on fruit/veggies?
- by using my own bags
- by using a mesh bag (available at Keells)
- by using the biodegradable bags
- by just putting the sticker on the fruit/veggies themselves
- Did I minimize bag-use on meats/fish/bakery items?
- by using my own bags/containers
- by using the available biodegradable bags
- Did I minimize bag-use at checkout?
- By using my own bags
- By buying reusable bags for next time if I didn't have them
The main thing to remember is to just bring the bags. But if you clean Sri Lanka and Earth to be more than a memory, that's one thing we all have to do.