Starting on the plastic-free journey requires a bigger change in the lifestyle than refusing plastic. Who should know this better than 49-year old Rizwanullah, an art teacher at Karachi University, and his family, who are living with less plastic.
He says his family probably "uses as much plastic in a month that people use in day. With so much plastic around, it is a real challenge to keep away from it".
From buying loose tea, to buying cooking oil in tin canisters, to taking lidded stainless steel and enamel utensils for buying bakery items, milk, yogurt and meat, to using fabric bag or date palm leaves… every step they take is measured to do away with plastic.
The vegetables are kept in brown paper bags in the refrigerator and leftover food stored in lidded containers and never clingwrapped.
And when ready-made alternatives are not there, the family comes up with ingenious do-it-yourself ways. Thus utensils and crockery are cleaned with home-made natural cleaners and used water is not drained but given to plants. They also stay away from liquid hand/body washes in plastic dispensers opting instead for soap bars. As for shampoo, they make that at home too.
In his quest for zero waste, he uses miswaq but admits his family remains unconvinced and do not follow his teeth-cleaning regimen. Still, all use homemade toothpowder or one bought from the market in jars not the paste that comes in tubes, as it has been estimated that approximately one billion plastic toothpaste tubes end up in landfills, taking a very long time to biodegrade.
But has this journey been easy? Rizwanullah mulls and says: "It was easy for us because we were of this thought and believe in the immense urgency of the situation." He also believes people can be motivated to make the change. "Even if they don’t understand what biodegradable means, they can be inspired to reuse and recycle" given that "thrift culture" is prevalent in our society.
In addition, he says, using the Internet to change people’s behaviour would be a good step. "I think showing compelling videos of how people changed their lives may inspire others."
Yet he fails to see that his own story closer to home is so well worth projecting!