Local business Gamma Architects is challenging people to join them in the challenge to live without single use plastic.
Architect Ruth Massias Greenberg is quick to point out that they are aware that some single use plastic is unavoidable, be it for medical or hygiene reasons.
The challenge called #freefromfebruary aims to start change habits and for people to become more aware of alternatives to single use plastics while reducing the environmental impact of daily decisions.
“Of the Three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), there is a reason “Reduce” and “Reuse” come before Recycle. Only a portion of what we recycle is actually recyclable, and even then requires a lot of energy to process,” organisers of the challenge said.
“Reducing our overall consumption of plastic products and packaging and opting for alternative items rather than single-use disposables will significantly reduce our environmental impact. We hope that by becoming aware of our weekly waste we will begin to identify effective and practical ways to reduce our impact on our vulnerable natural world.”
The group have set up a Facebook page where they are encouraging people to share both their experiences and tips for #freefromfebruary
They invite you to “take a picture of all plastic items in your usual weekly shop and share it with use using #myplasticpile #freefromfebruary.”
“Hopefully each week in February our plastic pile will reduce drastically.”
Going further than just reducing and reusing is composting, a method Mrs Massias Greenberg is looking into to see if it is possible to do in Gibraltar on a larger scale than just some homes.
She recognised that some plastics are difficult to replace such as plastic bin liners.
“Vegetable peels etc would be difficult to put in a paper bag unless you took it down straight away which is one option,” Mrs Massias Greenberg said.
“We thought is there a way that we could take part in the world wide movement of compositing your vegetable waste, could we do that here? It is an open ended question, but part of the point to this challenge is we know we will face challenges and I think we know that everybody and ourselves might face issues where we feel there is no alternative and we want to open up that discussion on the Free From February group.”
“Maybe something that I feel there is no alternative to somebody already has a solution.”
She believes it is about involving the community.
She also knows that education is important and that children are bringing their parents to task over their choices at home, be it from not recycling some items, energy saving lightbulbs or now single use plastics.
“A lot of parents say this and I am saying this, that kids do pressure you to recycle,” said Mrs Massias Greenberg.
“It is very obvious when they have had someone like the Nautilus Project in for a talk because they come home and they start to tell you off for throwing things in the bin.”
“Or my son will tell me off for wrapping his sandwich in tin foil instead of putting it in a box.”
“He will also pressure me to recycle and it is great, it is definitely linked to education.”
From a personal point of view Mrs Massias Greenberg wanted to do #freefromfebruary as it is a moment in time when a decision is made to do something and you go for it.
It stops the task from being put on the back burner.
Mrs Massias Greenberg also highlights that the products we see in the shops are customer driven.
“Items do not just turn up in a shop as most of the time an owner will not think I will just put that out there,” she said.
“Most of the time they will turn up in a shop and stay there because people ask for it and people buy it.”
“The consumers are the ones who ultimately have the choice.”
Regarding the belief some people have that one person does not make a difference and that campaigns such as #freefromfebruary
Mrs Massias Greenberg believes that “ultimately throughout history and even in recent history we could have thought that about a lot of challenges, such as smoking.”
“Who would have thought if you told someone 30 years ago that within the next decade you would not be able to smoke on a plane they probably would have thought you were crazy.”
“You can say it about many social issues and ask how would you face that monster and the ‘you can’t change that’, but I think we have seen that time has shown these things do happen. We have changed as a society and maybe I am being over optimistic but I think we can change over this and it all needs to start somewhere,” she added.
The challenge Mrs Massias Greenberg said will mean that her family will have to be more organised in how they approach their weekly shopping and inevitably it will mean that they and others will make healthier choices, especially if readymade meals are removed.