Hi everyone, today I want to talk to you about trash. I know, the topic is more serious than most other blogs on this page, but maybe you can learn something from it. After all, trash is an issue that should concern every single one of us, as we are all impacted by it.

I live in Cologne, which is a German city next to the river Rhine with about 1 million inhabitants. The one day I was walking down the Rhine promenade with a couple of my friends. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and the three of us weren’t the only ones who were enjoying the warm, yet windy weather. I was happily chatting with my friends, when suddenly I noticed one single plastic cup that was rolling with the wind. No one seemed to notice or even care. But I noticed it would fall into the river soon, because the wind was pushing it that way. I quickly sprinted towards the cup, picked it up and threw it into the trash can, which was only two steps away. Smiling and looking back at my friends I triumphantly said: “I saved the ocean from another piece of plastic!” They replied: “Do you wanna climb down to the riverbank and collect the rest of it?” I bent over the railing and looked down. There was so much more litter. The feeling of triumph left me immediately.

Even though I had saved the ocean from another piece of trash, it was just one tiny piece of trash which feels like nothing compared to the huge amounts that are already swimming within the ocean.

About a week later I was listening to the radio, when something they were talking about caught my attention. There was a group of people who met every other Saturday to take a walk around the city. But while doing so, they wanted to combine it with something useful, so they started to collect trash while walking. Every time they do so they collect upwards of 20 or more bags of garbage, which they properly dispose at the city dump afterwards.

Now, that’s a great cause to be sure, but there are people who don’t feel quite as comfortable while collecting other people’s trash. I once worked for a forest ranger’s office and one of my jobs there was to collect litter in the forests. Even though we were a group of four, sometimes people would call us names or asking us about what sort of crime we had committed to get punished with this sort of community service. Sure, this didn’t happen on a regular basis, but it didn’t help to see what kind of plastic we were putting into our garbage bags. Even though we were wearing gloves and used garbage tongs, it was not always a pleasant experience. Let’s just say… not everything was a plain plastic cup.

The group that was being interviewed on the radio sounded confident though. They said there was a lot of fun to be had together, and that they were being complimented a lot for their efforts. For everyone who still doesn’t like the thought of collecting other people’s waste in public, there are 5 simple tricks that I find easy to follow along to at least reduce your impact on trash.

  1. When buying food at fast food restaurants or bakeries or the like, it sometimes happens that I buy only one item that I plan on eating right away as soon as I am out of the place and on my way. Therefore, putting it into a bag for just one minute is pointless. This is why I ask the cashier to give it to me without the bag. To me it doesn’t matter if it is paper or plastic. If I don’t need a bag, I don’t take a bag.
  2. This aligns with number one. In German grocery stores you usually put your fruits into bags to scale them and to have them ready all at once. But as soon as you are home you throw this bag away. I decided to stack my fruits onto the scale without a bag. My fruits will survive the trip home without an extra layer. Again, if I don’t need a bag, I don’t use it.
  3. You probably heard it so many times already. Using refillable water bottles really helps reduce your amount of waste. Honestly though, which type of bottle is not refillable? Just fill any bottle with tap water and you’re good to go. (Avoid using bottles that contain any BPA’s though, as they can pose a health risk).
  4. In plenty of restaurants and bars you will get plastic straws along with your drink. I tend to tell the waiter that I don’t need a straw. I am perfectly fine with drinking right from my cup. Of course some alcoholic drinks kind of need a straw. But plenty of places start handing out paper straws rather than plastic ones, which is a great alternative.
  5. When going to fast food places, I always see people who grab an entire stack of napkins. For what purpose though? They will throw them all away with having used only one. Just take one napkin. If you happen to need more, you still can get up and get another one.

Of course these 5 tricks aren’t the only ones that you can use, but they are the one I feel most comfortable with. What do you do in order to keep your trash on a low level? Tell us about your tricks and there might be a part two!

Written by: Sophie Fritzen
Edited by: Robert Beahr

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