To European Union citizens and beyond,
To national and international Companies,
To EU policy makers and around the globe,
Flowing through the heart of Europe and close to home, the Rhine is a majestic river that unites six countries. It is exemplary in many ways. It is iconic and is one of dozens of rivers in the EU, It is biologically fairly clean but fish are not the only entities swimming there.
It is, in fact, filthy! One million kilograms of plastic float in its waters to land in our oceans and in our food chain.
Plastics do not disappear. They are broken down to micro plastics that pesticides and chemicals can attach to. These are eaten by plankton, to then enter our diet through the fish we consume. Micro plastics are also in tap water as well as bottled water. They are also in beer. We eat and we drink them. In ever larger amounts.
Take action that only you can implement
Ignite a spark in the the world to enable faster action. Contribute to speed up the pace of awareness. Try placing pressure on businesses and legislators. We consumers possess the power to instigate change.
Say no now to the throw-away society we have enabled to be created in the name of convenience. When we start to become ill and drop dead in vast numbers, that will be far from convenient.
Initiatives are happening already
The Ocean Cleanup is developing technology to extract plastic pollution from our oceans. 4Ocean makes bracelets from recycled materials and each one sold funds the removal of trash from the ocean and coastlines. The World Cleanup Day is involving 150 countries to collect refuse on 1 day, resulting in the biggest peaceful civil action in history.
Plastic attacks are starting to happen all over the world where people leave plastic wrappings at a supermarket to send a signal to suppliers. One has taken place in Düsseldorf already.
Zero waste shops and plastic free sections in supermarkets have surfaced in Amsterdam and inventions to clean harbours and beaches are in the pipeline.
The Rhine Clean Up Project
The first Rhine Clean Up will take place on September 15 2018. 30 cities have chosen to participate. This will expand next year and beyond to gain momentum and include other rivers.
The goal is to clean up the Rhine from its source to its entry into the North Sea. The project will create awareness on the condition our world is in as well as give a strong and urgent signal to people, companies and policy makers. That message is that we all need to change and to do it now!
Water and the Human Animal
Water is life. When we think of drinking water, we think of a clear, tasteless and healthy liquid. The amount of water on the planet is finite. No new water is created. We all need to drink at a minimum of one litre and a half just to stay healthy. Preferably more. We need to irrigate or produce in dry climates.
When water is dirty or smelly we sense danger. Micro plastics are invisible to the eye. They have no scent that is detectable by the human sense of smell.
Water is nearly always delivered in a bottle made of plastic. The smaller the bottle, the more problematic the ratio of waste to content. The equivalent of two plastic bottles end up in the Rhine every second. Nowadays, plastic is also the most used container for other produce, especially our food. The days of unique corner stores using paper bags have long passed. Mass consumerism has enable, almost demanded a packaging process that is killing us. For our comfort. How paradox.
The same goes for other items such as nails or screws at the hardware store. Packaging around toys and electronics. Open our hearts and our minds and we can extrapolate the consequences of each and every single one of our purchases. Change often takes more effort than just refusing a plastic bag.
Your writer buys items from the hardware store in Finland by weight and in a paper bag or none at all. Also in Finland, supermarkets sell strong, reusable gauze bags designed to replace plastic bags for fruit and veg. The pain? A purchase price of € 0.50 and the simple need to remember to carry it with me.
Compare that to the UK where no deposit is charges for bottles. Or Spain, where besides bottles with no fee, plastic bags are abundant with every single shop of almost every consumer at the market. In recent months, a large supermarket chain has also closed their meat counters to implement the individual use of sturdy plastic containers. Incomprehensible!
Clean Up our Act Together
As a consumer do you have a choice? We all do. Let’s make a mental check list. At the supermarket, do I buy produce in single use plastics? Do I ask for alternatives or carry my own bags and containers large and small? Or do I just go for the easy and more convenient option?
What can suppliers do? You are at the source of production. Yes, packaging is needed but how much are you willing to invest from your margin in a more sustainable product? Do you wrap your produce such as biscuits individually? Even in plastic with a high environmental price? Are you prepared to join in the cause to reduce harming our wildlife, oceans and environment? And help change some poor attitudes of consumers? Do you admit that printing your package design on plastic looks better? Do you admit that you use far less recycled plastic than possible merely because you wish your container to appear clearer?
What can outlets do? Do you try every day to find a better option out of the grounds of personal policy? Or do you only bend to consumer pressure? Have you too closed your fresh butchery and replaced it with pre-packed meat, for instance? Could you change your policies to bring it into alignment with a low plastic environment? Can you put pressure on suppliers to choose today’s higher priced, sustainable alternatives that will become more viable over time?
What can governments do? Are you not the ones who can legislate?. Are you not the key ingredient that can bring change? Are you the policy makers that choose with your conscience? Or are you the ones that are influenced by lobby mechanisms? Are you the individual wishing to rise in the ranks of the party or are you the one who thinks of her/his kids and those of your constituents? Are you the ones that refuse to implement a plastic tax or deposit system today? Or are you the ones who refuse to raise that deposit to a level that makes a difference, say €1, and invest in reclaiming and recycling? Have you thought how would you implement legislation if you were held legally responsible for decisions twenty years after exiting parliament?
Clean up the Rhine
Meanwhile, we have started to clear up the mess that we are already creating. Annual city clean ups in Düsseldorf have this year been complemented by monthly targeted clean ups. That has now developed into the first Rhine Clea Up on September 18 2018.
At the time of writing thirty towns and cities have already joined this project in Switzerland, The Netherlands and in Germany. People from all walks of life who are prepared to put on some gloves, carry a large recyclable bag and donate three hours of their time to make a difference.
It would be an honour and a pleasure to welcome you if you decide to join in. Read more on Amazing Capitals Dusseldorf.
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The first international Rhine Clean Up is being organised on September 15 2018 to coincide with World Clean Up Day. At the time of writing, involving Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and The Netherlands. Enthusiastic people will come together in over 50 tlocations to remove much of the trash that infests this majestic waterway.More...