The result of this ‘plastic attack’, which was launched Thursday afternoon by some dozen students, is two shopping baskets full of plastic and cardboard. A number of students pause for a moment to check out the curious tableau. Another young gentleman seems less amused, gingerly stepping over the heap with a frown on his face.
Change of policy
PPG board member Johanna Melsheimer (23, Management of International Social Challenges) finds it frustrating that most packaging material is only used once, after which it’s discarded: “Plastic itself isn’t the problem – it’s how we use it. This needs to change: our current pattern of consumption is damaging to both humans and the climate. With this action, we hope to encourage Spar to change their policy and simultaneously show people that they can’t keep consuming the way they do right now.” The first plastic attack was in May, at Albert Heijn. According to Johanna, it was a resounding success: “We received a lot of positive responses and the radio station Open Rotterdam made a report.”
She understands that students don’t have much time to reflect on their pattern of consumption. “When you’re in full study mode or live in the Hatta Building, you’re stuck with whatever’s offered at the campus shop – and a lot of these products have plastic packaging. So we want Spar to offer alternatives.”
Johanna: “It makes quite an impression to see all the plastic heaped up like this. We take a picture of the result and post it on Facebook and Instagram, tagging Spar. And Spar in turn responds to this. This way we’re able to initiate a dialogue.”
Chloé Schwizgebel (21, Media & Business master) has bought some nuts and a seaweed snack. “I believe in supply and demand: if we buy fewer of these products, Spar will adapt its supply. And some packaging really isn’t necessary: sandwich baggies, for instance. If you don’t put it in a bag, the worst that can happen is a few crumbs on your hand. Getting a paper napkin rather than a baggie would be an improvement right there.”
Kyra van Elswijk is Spar University’s Chief Digital Officer and understands the action group’s point: “We’re already doing quite a lot when it comes to sustainability policies. For example, you get a discount on coffee if you bring your own mug. And next year, we’ll be pitching the option of offering vegetables without packaging to our head office. But students usually opt for convenience – that’s what our ‘Grab & Go’ policy is based on. So students have a responsibility in this matter too. I hope this action makes them a bit more aware of the issue.”