Why I don’t like the “plastic free waste jar” concept.
Updated: Apr 13
Ok. So I let me first state that do “like” this idea and it has so much scope for awareness & outreach about just how much waste we produce and need to cut down. This is not calling out the bloggers themselves doing this. I recently commented to a prominent blogger who I absolutely frigging LOVE and watch every single story they put out, who had done the jar thing, and said that I didn't like it. It wasn't a dig at her- or her blog, but of this process. I want to make clear this is not bad mouthing those bloggers doing the jar. I want to raise a discussion. To ignite critical thinking around our waste and social media "lessons". I have purposefully omitted any names, or bloggers or photos of the jar thing, to avoid "shaming". Instead enjoy a picture of a mason jar from Unsplash, how I prefer to fill it. So here goes...
I don’t like extremism in any form. It turns me away, makes me skeptical and distrusting. I am a skeptic of extremist thoughts immediately, gaining trust on my own research.
And the waste free “this is all I’ve produced” is honestly a bit disingenuous and also does not necessarily equate to environmentalism.
Because to start with, to live a life producing that little waste, “the jar bloggers” must never ever eat or drink out. You see, I’ve worked in a sustainable restaurant. And we produced waste when producing products and services for customers. It was inevitable (even with THE best intentions) and stage we all accepted. We recycled, asked suppliers to send us products in reusable/ glass storage. But we did produce waste. If you order an almond latte, or a long black, the coffee and the milk, produced waste in the form of a single use carton. Just because you do not see that waste directly, or because it’s shared between the two or three other people who also had a latte- doesn't mean it doesn't exist?!
So when we had a prominent waste free blogger eat at said restaurant, who refused a recycled paper napkin, I was intrigued about this part I’d never thought about before. I looked her up on Instagram to see if she admitted “I NEEDED A COFFEE AND OMG HERES SOME MORE PLASTIC WRAP FOR THE JAR!” But no. Not a mention of the plastic bottles, milk cartons and coffees bags. Most of the bloggers doing this jar, are taking a tiny tiny snippet of their impact- and only their DIRECT plastic use and popping it in a jar and saying it’s all they’ve used. Tunnel vision. No mention of anything upstream. For those trying to reduce a bigger impact (past plastic as well) knowing they and I produce more plastic than that, it’s a bit of a sham. And a sham that when I first saw it, scared the shit about of me. These Godly creatures are producing that little waste, how much are they giving up? They live in a yurt growing their own kale and hemp for clothes???? So this seems outrageously petty right? She can’t cut a portion of plastic from the packaging we used and she contributed to and put it in her jar. It’s silly. But I’m merely making a point about the plastic free jar thing. It's a snippet, without the snippets!
Reaching that level of waste free is much easier in a developed city. Cities are getting lots more waste free shops (yess!) and for example in Melbourne, you are never more than a stones throw from a market at the weekends (waste free tips for a city is on our blog encase if you're keen to know more). Cities provide a lot more resources to go waste free. Many of the bloggers "doing the jar", live in cities. If you live in a city, you can probably relate. If you live in rural Malaysia and need a plastic water in order to drink water? Maybe not so much...
Waste free is also not always perfect on the "holistic" side of sustainable lifestyle. I recently saw a waste free blogger answer a question about waste free pet care. She failed to address a huuuuge range of environmental issues associated with pet ownership and addressed a tiny slither of pet ownership- like putting pet poo in paper bags and buying food in recyclable cans. Where was the answer about sustainable meat sources? I understand she asked about waste free pet care, I guess my point is, don't get so caught up in waste free that you miss the bigger picture, other issues that deserve attention. For example, don't avoid plastic so vehemently you would turn down reduced food, that has the power to reduced climate breakdown as well as ending up in the bin wasted (not even recycled).
I applaud the awareness. It is a fantastic tool to help you learn how much you use and waste. It's certainly a positive step. Very much like ecobricks. But I think it's unhealthy to become obsessed with the jar thing. Waste free is certainly taking the world by storm. And that’s awesome! Developed nations have a huge responsibility to reduce their waste. And this comes to consumers, producers, sellers, us all. Some regions of the world struggle a lot more than us, and those living in regions with clean tap water- should step up. But don't get completely freaked out by the jar thing and don't try, and equally don't kick yourself if you don't reach those heights. For now, I want to advocate less plastic, low waste whilst thinking about the bigger picture issues too. Think holistically. If you can reduce plastic as much as you can whilst also considering other equally important environmental issues- wonderful. A great step that will no doubt set you on a path to reduce more and more...