Perhaps you came to the office today with a coffee cup for a caffeine boost. Was it still hot enough or when you sat at your table you noticed that it had already started to get cold? Don’t you want to keep your coffee hot for at least an hour and keep enjoying it for longer? So why don’t you take your flask with you to the coffee shop, ask the barista to fill your own flask and enjoy a little discount as well?

 

Now forget about what we have written above and start to read below:

 

Do you know that according to the data from Urban Waste Management Department of Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, plastic waste forms 12% of the 31 million tons of household waste each year? Per capita plastic consumption in Turkey increased by about 10% in the last three years which has reached 90 kilograms. While you are drinking your coffee in the single use coffee cup are you aware of the environmental damage that you are causing? Do you know the cup you are using will most likely end up in the ocean?

Reducing the consumption of single use plastics is the first entry point of AccLab Turkey for a sustainable urban ecosystem. Even though it seems to be a very small part of a much larger challenge, it is quite obvious that if we do not change the way consumers and manufacturers behave it will be impossible to tackle the issue anytime soon.

Any action against single-use plastics is not for only individuals, we also need governments to regulate and businesses or organizations like us to innovate. Only if all actors collectively change behavior, we can have real progress.

The survey that AccLab Turkey conducted in 2 different locations - an urban food market and a popular shopping mall - and online reached around 400 people. What do people perceive as barriers? What are the reasons behind our single-use plastic addiction? What can we do to abolish it?

The findings are not that surprising; the surprising part is that even though most people are aware of the hazards of single-use plastics, taking action is not always easy. In addition to that, willingness to take action is not always there!

It is not well known that the so-called “paper” cups (like coffee cups) contain a plastic inner layer; less than 50% of the surveyed people mentioned cups. But when we prompted them to count how many coffee cups, they use per week, the average number was 13 cups a week, followed by 12 plastic bottles and 10 plastic bags week.

When asked why they thought action had to be taken to reduce single-use plastics most people responded, “To protect the environment”. whereas the mostly popular reason for not taking any action is “Nobody acts, why should I care?”. These responses are also in line with “awareness raising”, “affordable alternatives”, and “incentives” which were mentioned by people when asked “What would convince people to reduce single use plastic consumption?”

Behavioral science has a role to play here:

People should believe that others are taking positive action, they also need to understand the damage their own actions cause. To incentive people there needs to be some discounts or similar campaigns, and plastic alternatives should become more affordable…

We need to start with suppliers and retailers; coffee shop managers and baristas need to change the way they sell coffee. Consumers also need to start taking responsibility for their individual actions. Designing campaign posters to raise awareness; training baristas to offer a mug for the “here” option by default and offering discounts for bringing own flasks or mugs are our target actions for sustained behavioral change.

 

Number Scoop:

  • 13 million tonnes of plastic reach the ocean and threatens life underwater
  • 20 years for a disposable plastic shopping bag to break down in the ocean
  • 450 years or more for a plastic bottle to break down
  • 90% of plastics are never recycled
  • 90 kilograms per capita plastic consumption in Turkey every year?
  • 25.8 million tons of waste produced in Turkey per year?
  • 400 responses recorded during AccLab Turkey’s single-use plastic survey
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