Pause, Rethink, Replace!

In the last newsletter, we updated you on the social campaign at Brazilian university, where students, professors and others came together to take an action on reducing and recycling plastics. During this session, we have demonstrated the harms caused by plastic for nature, animals and humans. Then, we differentiated the categories of plastic used in making different types of goods and packaging.

Following the first campaign, we have launched our next challenge of ‘zero plastic week’.

This challenge not only encouraged participants to reduce their consumption of plastics by being more conscious about their purchases but also motivated them to start their own recycling project at the university, in cooperation with an outside recycling facility.

The idea behind this campaign was for the participants to compare the volume of plastic purchased during a “normal” consumption week with a ‘zero plastic week’, when participants tried to avoid buying and using plastics as much as possible.

Avoiding plastics is not as easy as it might seem at first but also nothing impossible or discomforting

How to ‘zero plastic week’

During this week, you can discover things which you can simply replace with non-plastic packaging (e.g. vegetables), pick those packaging that reduces plastics (e.g. soap refills).

On the other hand, you can find items that might seem impossible to replace or reduce (e.g. face cream).

Once you’re in front of a shelf in a grocery store, you can pause a second, rethink if this is necessary, and try to replace the product with another that has no or smaller plastic used in packaging.

Of course, we tried and know that it can take you a few extra minutes at first but then you get to know what you should pick and get used to your new product selections.

Also, you might noticed that how dependent we have become and could even start questioning our survival before the great plastic era.

The comparison of results also allows us to become more conscious of our daily consumption, understand that there are many ways to avoid plastic and to find out the most common types of plastic that we use and can’t easily avoid and also the most harmful ones.

What IFSULDEMINAS university has to prove us

Many participants have expressed their support and interest in this event. 176 students have participated in the challenge, where they collected and compared their plastic usage for two weeks (“normal” and “zero plastic”). Students and organizers measured the weights and also the classification of the plastic used. Then, they observed the decreased volume of plastic. These valuable remarks are supported by the following results:

72% of all the plastic was reduced during this experiment. This is equal to 598 kg per year for 176 students

I really enjoyed the experiment because I was impressed with how much plastic we use unnecessarily in our daily lives. And with this experiment, I started to practice recycling at my house — said a participant

In the following chart, you can see how much per plastic type was avoided during the ‘zero plastic week’ in comparison to the normal week:

By looking at the chart above, we can also measure how much of each type of plastic was impossible to avoid. These results could further highlights where we need to make changes in plastic packaging. For example, HDPE is one of the highest used plastics where we find in shampoo, creams, and another similar packaging. This type of plastic was also one of the most difficult ones to reduce, highlighting new areas for innovations in packing to enable us to reduce or avoid this type of plastic.

In this experiment, PET and HDPE are the most common type of plastic:

Following the experiment, more than 250 students participated in a questionnaire where 100% expressed their care about the environment, 97% thought that their action could contribute to saving the planet. Out of all the participants, 65.5% found it difficult to separate the plastics and the main reason was the difficulty in washing the plastic parts in order to bring it to their new on-site recycling bins.

The results of this campaign were shared at scientific-cultural event and results of the ‘zero plastic week’ campaign were presented.

IFSULDEMINAS launches their first recycling project following the challenge

One of the marvelous remarks of this experiment was that a plastic recycling system was established as a result, initiated by the organizers and participants. The new partnership formed between university and recycling company ACAMPA, allow the students to bring their household plastic waste as well as daily plastics used in the campus to the allocated bins at Campus Pouso Alegre.

Our next goal is to hold similar events and organize our campaign in other campuses at Federal Institute of Southern Minas (IFSULDEMINAS) university.

The last step of our social campaign is “Replacing” the one-time used plastic cups by eco-friendly mugs in the university cafeteria for each student.

By Elly Ansari and Polina Vasilenko

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