Lviv has been among the first Ukrainian cities to limit the use of plastic bags in favor of sustainable alternatives.
As plastic pollution worsens, we get increasingly inventive in ways to deal with it. A case in point is an initiative in western Ukraine to wean locals off disposable plastic products.
Going one day without using plastic bags is a good start for a shift in behaviors, say activists from Zero Waste Lviv. A single day, however, is just the start of a three-month campaign dedicated to removing disposables from the everyday lives of citizens and tourists alike, beginning in April and ending in July.
It all started from a simple idea: “Can citizens function well without plastic bags?” In time this idea turned into a major drive involving supermarket chains and many smaller stores at over 100 locations. Vegetable sections replaced plastics bags with paper ones. Plastic gloves disappeared in favor of metal holders. Textile bags were handed out by cashiers. These were just some of the measures adopted.
Many supermarkets are thinking of developing zero-waste strategies, while others are keen to run such campaigns more often and gradually transition to a plastic-free packaging culture. Yet it can be easier said than done. Supermarkets, especially their fish and meat sections, faced major challenges in finding non-disposable alternatives to plastic packaging.
Paper isn’t always a suitable alternative to plastics, some supermarkets noted, pointing out that paper bags can be five times more expensive than plastic ones. Nor are paper bags necessarily an eco-friendly choice.
Yet despite the challenges, the idea of zero waste is catching on. More and more locals realize that true change comes from rethinking their lifestyles as well as from creating supportive contexts for change. One store manager has encouraged shoppers to use only the packaging they really need, while many stores reward consumers with bonuses for choosing eco-friendly alternatives.
The movement is particularly important as Ukraine has been slow in catching up with new EU law that bans disposable plastics from 2021 onwards. The Eastern European nation will have to solve a lot of issues regarding the production, use, and recycling of disposable packaging within the next few years.
Lviv has been one of the first cities in the country to officially limit the use of plastic bags in favor of sustainable alternatives. It’s also been the first to adopt an ambitious zero-waste strategy. Cases around the world show that concentrated action on plastics can yield effective results.
The next steps in Lviv’s anti-plastic campaign will include a Zero Waste Festival and a number of other educational events; training for cashiers about the harmful environmental effects of plastic waste; and a gradual switch to reusable packaging as a standard service across the whole city.